The idea of eating sushi can be a little daunting at first: After all, most cuisines don’t feature uncooked proteins. However, sushi happens to be one of the most complex and delicious cuisines in the world, as more and more people throughout the world are finding out about this popular japanese food choice.
At first, the world of sushi can seem overly complicated and strange. The terms aren’t familiar, and there is a wide assortment of types of sushi to try. For a beginner, a sushi menu is usually literally a foreign language. But the good news is that you can easily understand the basics of sushi by learning just a few classifications into which sushi is grouped.
Once you understand the following types of sushi, you’ll be able to order sushi with confidence, and begin to appreciate one of the most novel and delicious world cuisines.
Nigiri is one of the most classic types of sushi, as well as one of the oldest. In many ways, Nigiri Sushi distills the sushi experience down to its basics.
The form of Nigiri is a pressed oblong shape of sushi rice, which is then topped with a swipe of wasabi and some kind of topping. The toppings are usually seafood such as tuna or salmon, but can be anything from egg to chicken, or even more exotic toppings like eel. The topping of Nigiri is nearly always raw, but in some instances is seared or cooked.
Sashimi is technically not considered sushi, though nearly every sushi restaurant will serve sashimi, so it’s useful to classify and explain it along with sushi.
Sashimi refers to thinly sliced pieces of extremely fresh meat or fish, often served over a bed of daikon radishes. Sashimi differs from Nigiri Sushi in that it’s not served on rice, and Sashimi is always raw. Otherwise, the two are somewhat similar. In both cases, the centerpiece of the dish is the wonderfully fresh protein, prepared with master craftsmanship.
Nigiri and Sashimi represent sushi at its purer form, with the protein and rice taking center stage. However, there’s an entire other landscape of sushi, offering an enormous range of complexity of differing ingredients. These are Maki Sushi, or sushi rolls.
Maki are usually rolled in seaweed, known as Nori, and can feature almost any combination of ingredients imaginable. While Nigiri and Sashimi are meat based dishes, Maki can be vegetarian, though Maki certainly do feature seafood and other meats as well.
The traditional Maki Sushi shape and structure is the seaweed on the outside with rice and any other ingredients on the inside. While this is the standard setup, a number of other Maki formulations are popular as well.
Uramaki is a type of Maki Sushi. The main distinction with Uramaki is that the seaweed is on the inside of the sushi roll, with rice and other ingredients on the outside.
Uramaki is a more modern invention, and has become increasingly popular in certain parts of the world. Many sushi rolls that have reached mainstream popularity and recognition, like the California Roll, are Uramaki.
There are pluses and minuses to Uramaki vs. traditional Maki, but each is the same general idea. Seaweed, rice, and nearly any combination of ingredients a sushi chef can dream up.
Temaki is another variation on the concept of the sushi roll. A Temaki sushi uses the seaweed in a rolled shape similar to an ice cream cone, with the ingredients that make up the sushi roll being placed inside.
Temaki rolls are often served as appetizers, and are a fun variant on the traditional Maki form.
So, to summarize, Sushi can be broken down into two basic categories. There’s Nigiri and Sashimi, which usually feature uncooked seafood in a simple presentation that highlights the fresh, high quality protein. And there is Maki, which are rolls which can contain many types and combinations of ingredients.
Once you’ve understood that basic concept, you’ve got the basics down, and should be able to start exploring and enjoying the world of Sushi cuisine.