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9 Different Types of Sushi – Sashimi, Nigiri, and More

If you find yourself captivated by the delightful combination of rice, vegetables, and seafood, you're undoubtedly a sushi enthusiast. While most people have their go-to sushi choices, the world of sushi is diverse as there are many different types of sushi that are worth exploring.

This article lists the most popular sushi varieties and what makes each type special. Whether you're looking to try something new or deepen your appreciation for your favorites, there's always something exciting to explore!

What is Sushi?

Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish with vinegared rice and various ingredients, including seafood, vegetables, and occasionally tropical fruits. It's renowned for its meticulous presentation and balanced flavors.

It makes for a casual meal, especially when you’re enjoying a relaxed evening at home. You can also feature sushi at special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones. Having a business lunch? Sushi is a popular choice.

What are the Different Types of Sushi?

Sushi comes in several forms, including Nigiri (hand-pressed rice topped with ingredients), Maki (rolled in seaweed), and Sashimi (sliced raw fish). Each offers a unique culinary experience that reveals the craftsmanship behind this beloved cuisine.

Below are various types of sushi to try:

1. Sashimi

Sashimi

Sashimi is a traditional Japanese dish consisting of thinly sliced raw fish or seafood that is typically served without rice. The emphasis in sashimi is on the quality and freshness of the ingredients.

It is often accompanied by soy sauce (shoyu) and wasabi for dipping and sometimes garnished with daikon radish or shiso leaves.

Types of Sashimi

  • Maguro (Tuna): Maguro, or tuna, is one of the most popular fish used in sushi. It has a rich, meaty texture and a deep red color.
  • Sake (Salmon): This is a favored choice for sushi due to its tender texture and rich flavor.
  • Hamachi (Yellowtail): It has a slightly fatty quality that contributes to a rich mouthfeel.
  • Saba (Mackerel): This is often served as shime saba, which means it has been marinated in vinegar to enhance its taste and preserve it.
  • Hotate (Scallop): It has a slightly translucent appearance and a mild, buttery taste. Scallops are often served as nigiri or sashimi and are appreciated for their subtle flavor.
  • Uni (Sea Urchin): It has a rich, almost custard-like consistency with a unique, oceanic taste.
  • Tako (Octopus): Tako, or octopus, is characterized by its firm, chewy texture and mild flavor. It is typically boiled to tenderize it and is often served as nigiri or in sushi rolls.
  • Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp): The shrimp’s natural sweetness makes it a favorite among sushi enthusiasts.
  • Ika (Squid): The squid is usually sliced thinly and can be prepared in various ways to enhance its tenderness.
  • Katsuo (Bonito): It is often served as katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) or as fresh bonito slices. Katsuo has a distinctive taste and is often used in traditional Japanese dishes

2. Nigiri Sushi

Nigiri Sushi

Nigiri sushi is a classic and it consists of a small, hand-pressed mound of vinegared rice (known as shari or sushi rice) topped with a slice of fish or seafood (neta). It’s valued for its elegant simplicity and the emphasis on the quality and freshness of the fish or seafood.

Nigiri sushi is a staple menu item at Japanese sushi restaurants and is considered a delicacy.

Types of Nigiri Sushi

  • Maguro Nigiri: A classic favorite, showcasing slices of raw tuna. It can be served as akami (lean), chutoro (medium fatty), or otoro (fatty belly).
  • Sake Nigiri: Features slices of fresh salmon, and is known for its buttery texture and mild, slightly sweet flavor.
  • Ebi Nigiri: Consists of cooked shrimp, often chilled and lightly seasoned. It's appreciated for its firm texture and sweet flavor, making it a staple in sushi restaurants.
  • Unagi Nigiri: Showcases slices of grilled freshwater eel, glazed with a sweet and savory sauce (tare). It has a tender texture and a rich, smoky flavor that's highly satisfying.
  • Hamachi Nigiri: Made from yellowtail fish, prized for its buttery texture and slightly sweet taste. It's often served with a light brushing of soy sauce to enhance its natural flavors.

3. Maki Sushi

Maki Sushi

Maki sushi, often simply referred to as "sushi rolls," is a popular and versatile form of sushi in Japanese cuisine. It consists of sushi rice and various ingredients rolled together in nori (seaweed) and sliced into bite-sized pieces.

Maki sushi’s versatility allows for endless combinations of ingredients, which caters to different tastes and preferences. Moreover, the vibrant colors and patterns of maki rolls make them visually striking.

Types of Maki Sushi

  • Tekka Maki: A classic and simple sushi roll consisting of raw tuna (maguro) rolled in nori (seaweed) and sushi rice. It's known for its clean flavors and is a favorite among sushi enthusiasts.
  • Kappa Maki: Another classic sushi roll that features cucumber slices rolled with sushi rice and nori. It's refreshing, light, and perfect for those who enjoy the crisp texture of cucumber.
  • California Roll: One of the most popular Westernized sushi rolls. It typically contains imitation crab (or real crab), avocado, and cucumber rolled inside out with nori and sushi rice. It's often topped with sesame seeds or tobiko (fish roe).
  • Spicy Tuna Roll: A favorite for those who enjoy a bit of heat. It features raw tuna mixed with spicy mayo (mayonnaise and sriracha or chili sauce), rolled with cucumber or avocado, and sushi rice inside nori.
  • Dragon Roll: A visually striking sushi roll that often features eel (unagi) placed on top of an inside-out roll containing avocado, cucumber, and sometimes crab stick. The eel is typically glazed with a sweet sauce, giving it a distinctive flavor.

4. Uramaki

Uramaki

Uramaki is a style of sushi roll where the rice is on the outside of the nori (seaweed) wrapper, with the filling on the inside. This is in contrast to traditional maki sushi, where the nori is on the outside and the rice and filling are inside.

Uramaki rolls are sometimes referred to as "inside-out rolls" due to this inversion of the typical sushi roll construction.

Types of Uramaki

  • California Roll: Perhaps the most well-known type of uramaki sushi. It typically contains imitation crab (or real crab), avocado, and cucumber rolled inside-out with nori and sushi rice. The outer layer of rice is often sprinkled with sesame seeds or topped with fish roe (tobiko).
  • Spicy Tuna Roll: This roll features raw tuna mixed with spicy mayo (a blend of mayonnaise and sriracha or chili sauce), rolled with cucumber or avocado, and sushi rice inside-out with nori. It's popular for its spicy kick and savory flavors.
  • Dragon Roll: A visually stunning uramaki roll, the Dragon Roll often includes eel (unagi) placed on top of an inside-out roll containing avocado, cucumber, and sometimes crab stick. The eel is typically glazed with a sweet sauce and may be garnished with avocado slices or fish roe.
  • Rainbow Roll: Another eye-catching uramaki sushi. It features a variety of sashimi (usually tuna, salmon, and yellowtail) arranged on top of an inside-out roll with avocado, cucumber, and crab stick. Each slice of sashimi provides a burst of color and flavor.
  • Spider Roll: Typically include soft-shell crab tempura, cucumber, avocado, and sometimes spicy mayo or eel sauce, rolled inside-out with nori and sushi rice. The legs of the crab often extend out from the ends of the roll, giving it a distinctive appearance.

5. Temaki

Temaki

Temaki, also known as "hand roll" sushi, is a cone-shaped sushi roll that is made by wrapping nori (seaweed) around sushi rice and a variety of fillings.

The word "temaki" literally translates to "hand roll" in Japanese, highlighting the fact that these sushi rolls are meant to be eaten by hand.

Types of Temaki

  • Spicy Tuna Temaki: Features a filling of spicy tuna mixed with mayo and often combined with cucumber or avocado, wrapped in nori and sushi rice. It's known for its bold flavors and creamy texture.
  • Salmon Avocado Temaki: Combines fresh slices of salmon with creamy avocado, wrapped in nori and sushi rice. It's a refreshing and flavorful option that highlights the buttery texture of salmon and the richness of avocado.
  • Shrimp Tempura Temaki: Includes crispy shrimp tempura pieces, along with cucumber and sometimes avocado, wrapped in nori and sushi rice. It offers a crunchy texture contrasted with the softness of the rice and fillings.
  • California Temaki: Similar to the California roll, the California temaki features imitation crab (or real crab), avocado, and cucumber rolled in nori and sushi rice. It's a popular choice for its balanced flavors and satisfying texture.
  • Vegetable Temaki: A vegetarian option that typically includes a mix of fresh vegetables such as cucumber, avocado, carrot, sprouts, and sometimes pickled radish (oshinko). It's wrapped in nori and sushi rice, offering a crunchy and refreshing bite.

6. Chirashi Sushi

Chirashi Sushi

Chirashi sushi is a type of sushi that consists of a bowl of sushi rice topped with a variety of sashimi (raw fish and seafood), vegetables, and garnishes. The word "chirashi" means "scattered" in Japanese, referring to the scattered arrangement of ingredients over the rice.

Since chirashi is served in a bowl, it’s a more casual and convenient option for eating. There’s no need to use chopsticks for precise bites!

Types of Chirashi Sushi

  • Tekka Don: A classic chirashi sushi bowl that features slices of raw tuna (maguro) sashimi arranged over a bed of sushi rice. It's simple yet delicious, showcasing the natural flavors of the tuna.
  • Kaisen Don: Also known as seafood chirashi, includes an assortment of sashimi such as tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp, and sometimes octopus or squid. It's topped with a variety of seafood over sushi rice, offering a diverse range of textures and flavors.
  • Unagi Don: Features slices of grilled freshwater eel (unagi) glazed with a sweet and savory sauce (tare), served over sushi rice. It's known for its rich, smoky flavor and tender texture.
  • Chirashi Don: The standard chirashi don includes a mix of various sashimi slices, typically including tuna, salmon, and other seasonal fish, along with cucumber, avocado, and shredded nori (seaweed). It provides a well-balanced assortment of flavors and textures.
  • Vegetarian Chirashi: Filled with a variety of fresh vegetables such as cucumber, avocado, pickled radish (oshinko), tamago (sweet Japanese omelette), and shredded nori over sushi rice. It's a flavorful and satisfying option for those who prefer a meatless dish.

7. Inari Sushi

Inari Sushi

Inari sushi is a traditional Japanese sushi that consists of sushi rice stuffed inside seasoned pouches of deep-fried tofu called "aburaage" or "inari." It is named after the Shinto god Inari, who is believed to have a fondness for fried tofu.

To make inari sushi, the seasoned tofu pouches are gently opened and filled with sushi rice. The rice is often seasoned with a bit of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt to enhance its flavor.

Types of Inari Sushi

  • Traditional Inari Sushi: The classic inari sushi consists of sushi rice seasoned with vinegar, sugar, and salt, stuffed inside sweetened aburaage (fried tofu pouches). It's simple yet delicious, highlighting the sweet and savory combination of flavors.
  • Sesame Inari Sushi: Includes sushi rice mixed with toasted sesame seeds before being stuffed into the aburaage pouches. The sesame seeds add a nutty flavor and slight crunch to the sushi.
  • Spicy Tuna Inari Sushi: Features sushi rice mixed with spicy tuna (tuna mixed with spicy mayo or chili sauce), which is then stuffed into the aburaage pouches. It provides a savory and spicy twist on the traditional inari sushi.
  • Vegetarian Inari Sushi: Filled with sushi rice mixed with finely chopped vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, and sometimes shiitake mushrooms or pickled radish (oshinko). It's a flavorful and colorful option for vegetarians.
  • Tamago Inari Sushi: Includes sushi rice mixed with slices of sweet tamago (Japanese omelette), which is then stuffed into the aburaage pouches. It offers a sweet and comforting taste, complementing the mild sweetness of the aburaage.

8. Oshi Sushi

Oshi Sushi

Oshi sushi, also known as pressed sushi or box sushi, is a traditional Japanese sushi style that originated in the Kansai region, particularly in Osaka.

It is characterized by its rectangular shape, where sushi rice and various toppings are pressed into a mold to create a compact and visually appealing block of sushi.

Types of Oshi Sushi

  • Saba Oshi Sushi: Features slices of marinated mackerel (saba) pressed on top of sushi rice. The mackerel is often marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, and sometimes ginger to impart a bold and tangy flavor.
  • Sake Oshi Sushi: Includes slices of fresh salmon (sake) pressed on sushi rice. The salmon is typically lightly seasoned or may be marinated with soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine), offering a delicate and buttery taste.
  • Unagi Oshi Sushi: Consists of slices of grilled freshwater eel (unagi) glazed with a sweet and savory sauce, pressed on top of sushi rice. The eel provides a rich, smoky flavor that pairs well with the vinegared rice.
  • Kani Oshi Sushi: Features crab meat (kani) pressed on sushi rice. The crab meat is often mixed with mayo and other seasonings, offering a creamy and sweet flavor that complements the rice.
  • Vegetarian Oshi Sushi: Can include various toppings such as avocado, cucumber, pickled radish (oshinko), and thinly sliced vegetables pressed on sushi rice. It's a lighter option that provides a refreshing taste and vibrant colors.

9. Narezushi

Narezushi

Narezushi is an ancient form of fermented sushi that originated in Japan. It is one of the earliest forms of sushi-making methods dating back over a thousand years.

Narezushi is less commonly found today compared to other sushi varieties due to its strong flavors and lengthy fermentation process. Fish is salted and then placed in a container with layers of rice.

It holds historical significance in Japanese cuisine as it reflects the preservation techniques used in ancient times before the advent of refrigeration.

Types of Narezushi

  • Funazushi: Made from fermented crucian carp (funa). It is particularly famous in the Shiga Prefecture of Japan, where the fish is salted and fermented with rice for an extended period, sometimes up to three years. Funazushi is known for its strong aroma and intense flavor.
  • Sabazushi: Made from fermented mackerel (saba). Mackerel is salted and fermented with rice, creating a rich umami flavor with a distinctive tanginess. It is popular in regions like Kyoto and Fukui Prefecture.
  • Iwashi-zushi: Made from fermented sardines (iwashi). The sardines are salted and fermented with rice, resulting in a strong, savory flavor. It is commonly found in coastal regions of Japan.
  • Heshiko: A preserved fish dish that is related to narezushi. It involves marinating fish, often mackerel or sardines, in a salt and rice bran mixture (nuka) for a period of time to develop its flavor. Heshiko is served grilled or simmered and has a distinct umami taste.
  • Funa-zushi: A regional variation of narezushi made with fermented crucian carp. It is a specialty of the Gifu Prefecture and involves fermenting the fish with salt and rice for an extended period, resulting in a strong and complex flavor profile.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dive deeper into the world of sushi by exploring our FAQ section below:

What does "sushi-grade" fish mean?

"Sushi-grade" fish refers to seafood that meets specific quality and safety standards suitable for raw consumption in sushi and sashimi. These standards include freshness, texture, taste, and safe handling practices.

To ensure safety, sushi-grade fish is typically flash-frozen to extremely low temperatures. This process kills any parasites that might be present,

Is sushi healthy?

Sushi can be a healthy choice depending on what you order. The fish used in sushi, such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel, are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and quality protein. Other ingredients like seaweed and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that boost health.

What's the green stuff served with sushi?

The green paste is usually wasabi, a Japanese condiment made from the grated rhizome (root) of the wasabi plant (Wasabia japonica). It's often mixed with soy sauce for dipping.

Summary

From the classic flavors of nigiri and sashimi to the creative combinations in maki and uramaki rolls, sushi offers a rich culinary experience that will satisfy anyone.

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