The Wide Ranging World of Sushi

  • 3 min read
The Wide Ranging World of Sushi

For many people, when they think of Japanese food, the very first thing that comes to mind is sushi. However, if you’ve spent time in a Japanese sushi restaurant, you quickly come to realize that “sushi” is actually a pretty broad term that covers a lot of different types of sushi. Here are some of the most popular:


The Wide Ranging World of Sushi

Nigiri Sushi

Nigiri sushi is perhaps the most iconic type of sushi. When you think of sushi, this is probably what comes to mind.

At its core, nigiri sushi has two key parts: the sushi rice and the topping. Sushi rice isn’t just a kind of rice, but also a preparation. Achieving the proper mix of vinegar, sugar, and salt for sushi rice can be challenging, but when done right, it results in a complex, flavorful rice that perfectly complements the topping. In most cases, the topping will be raw fish, but could also be egg, meat, or vegetables. In between the two you often have a smear of wasabi and sometimes there will be a garnish such as green onion, grated radish (daikon), grated ginger, or even mayonnaise!

One of my favorite pieces of nigiri sushi is aburi mayo salmon , which is a small piece of salmon grilled using a hand blow torch, and topped with a dollop of mayonnaise and green onion.


The Wide Ranging World of Sushi


Makizushi, or hand rolled sushi, come in several different varieties and presentations. One of the most common have a filling surrounded by rice then wrapped in nori (seaweed). Depending on the size, these rolls have different names, but it generally include hosomaki (smallest), chumaki (standard size), and futomaki (large size).

The other kind of makizushi are uramaki. These are reversed maki rolls with a filling wrapped in nori, with rice on the outside. The rice may also have a topping such as sesame seeds. You might recognize this as something like a California roll. Uramaki aren’t as popular in Japan as they are in restaurants overseas. 


The Wide Ranging World of Sushi


Chirashizushi, or scattered sushi, is a style of sushi where sushi rice is placed in a bowl or dish, and toppings, such as fish, vegetables or eggs, are "scattered" on top. One common topping is kinshi tamago (shredded egg crepe).

While it looks like the fish and vegetables are scattered about randomly, every piece is placed deliberately to create a beautiful presentation. While you can commonly find chirashizushi in sushi restaurants and occasionally in super markets, it is much more commonly found around Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day) and Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day).


The Wide Ranging World of Sushi


Another kind of sushi that is popular around Hinamatsuri is temarizushi (ball
sushi), which is named after temari, a brightly colored woven decorative ball popular in Japan. Temarizushi use brightly colored fish and vegetables that are pressed down on rice shaped into a small ball. The result is bite sized, beautiful pieces of sushi.


The Wide Ranging World of Sushi

Gunkan maki

Gunkan maki (battleship sushi), resemble the hull of a Japanese battleship, and are made by making an oval shape out of sushi rice, then wrapping a tall piece of nori around the rice. This creates a kind of cup on top of the rice for sushi ingredients, most of which would fall off the rice without the surrounding nori walls of the gunkan.

One of the most common gunkan maki is ikura gunkan maki (salmon fish egg sushi). Other favorites are uni (sea urchin), corn and mayo, and negitoro (minced tuna and green onion). If you order gunkan at a sushi restaurant and want to use soy sauce, keep an eye out for a small bottle of soy sauce that you can use to drip soy sauce on top.


The Wide Ranging World of Sushi


Finally, we have one of my favorite kinds of sushi. inarizushi. Inarizushi consists of a deep fried tofu pocket (inari-age) that is simmered in a sweet dashi based broth, squeezed to remove the excess dashi, and filled with sushi rice. Depending on where you are in Japan, inarizushi can either be served folded over with only sushi rice, or with the top open and traditional sushi ingredients put inside. 

While this list sushi is long, it is by no means exhaustive. The world of sushi
in Japan is large and diverse with new and creative sushi being made every day by talented chefs. Next time you are eating sushi, why not try a new kind of sushi? It could be your new favorite!


About the author:

Michael Bugajski

Michael Bugajski

Michael is originally from Chicago, IL in the United States, but has lived in Japan for seven years in Niigata and Hokkaido. He is an avid home chef, baker, and coffee enthusiast, but his one true love is ramen.  Ever in pursuit of the perfect bowl of noodles, you can always find him by listening for the tell-tale slurp of ramen being enjoyed!

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