Sushi has become one of Japan’s more famous culinary exports that has influenced cuisine the world over. It is now so ubiquitous that it can be found packaged and sold at convenience stores and supermarkets.
Here is a list of some of the most popular toppings, orneta,used in sushi:
Of the varieties of fish used in making sushi,marugo, or bluefin tuna, is arguably the most iconic.
There are several cuts ofmaguro used in making sushi: the bright redakamiwhich is the least fatty cut, the slightly pinkchūtoro which is a moderately fatty cut, andōtoro which is a light and sometimes marbled piece of very fatty tuna.
Akami is used to make a traditional type ofEdomae sushi known asakami-zuke.Zukemeans to pickle, and in the Edo period, nearly allmaguro were pickled in ashōyunikiri, or soy sauce and vinegar-based marinade. This preserved the freshness and the color of the fish.
Another popular sushi roll made usingmaguroisnegi toro in which fattier cuts of tuna are pounded into a paste before being mixed with green onions.
While not considered traditional byEdomaestandards, salmon, orsake, is often ranked as the second most popularneta in Japan. It is a staple in mostkaiten, conveyor belt sushi restaurants, with a wide range of preparations from raw to grilled and even topped with mayonnaise and onions before being blowtorched until crispy.
One of the more traditional uses of salmon, however, is ikura, marinated salmon roe, which feature on the menus of the most prestigious sushi restaurants throughout Japan.
Japanese Amberjack or Yellowtail (Hamachi)
A different species of tuna,hamachi, is a very popular fish used in sushi making. It is lighter in color thanmaguro and considered a white fish with a soft texture and full flavor, often leaving one with citrusy notes.
As a quick note,buri is another popular type of sushi made from the same fish, the difference being thathamachiis a young amberjack, andburiis a mature one.
Japanese Seabream (Tai)
Taiis a fish that holds a lot of cultural significance in Japan as a symbol for good luck and fortune, stemming from the Japanese wordmedetai, meaning auspicious or joyous.
While there are ten types oftaifound in the waters around Japan,madaiis the one generally preferred for sushi, and is a white fish with a firm texture and sweet, rich flavor.
Another one of the most popular sushinetais squid. Although there are thought to be over 400 species of squid in oceans the world over,aoi ika is considered by many sushi chefs to be the most delicious.
And contrary to what one might expect, squid has a delicate sweetness that grows the longer one chews it, which pairs well with its fresh ocean aroma.
There are several types of shrimp used in making sushi that vary in size and taste. One of the most iconic might be the massivekuruma ebi, Japanese tiger prawns, which are usually skewered and quickly boiled prior to serving.
Amaebi¸ deep water shrimp, with their distinct reddish tinge, are another popular choice, best from the cold waters off Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido.
Octopus is possibly one of the most labor-intensiveneta in traditionalEdomae style sushi. In order to tenderize it, the octopus is first kneaded for at least thirty minutes before being boiled. Then, just before serving, the boiled and massaged octopus is gently tenderized with the flat of the knife and sliced thin to avoid chewiness.
While this list only begins to scratch the surface of the many types of fish and seafood that can top one’s sushi, they are a good jumping off point to try more traditional style Japanese sushi!
About the author: The spark that lit Kevin Kilcoyne’s interest in Japanese culture began in elementary school through a friendship with his then classmate Keisuke. Since then, that passion has evolved and bloomed to encompass more than just video games and manga, leading Kevin to live in Japan as a participant of the JET program. During his time in Japan, Kevin sought out as many foods as he could, the experiences and taste memories lingering long after they had gone. Now he is forging a path to link his passions for Japanese food, history, and visual culture and is planning for his return to live in Japan once again. For now, you can find Kevin on Instagram (@waruishouten) where he posts his photography and illustration work. Keep an eye out for more posts and updates as Kevin delves more deeply into his passions for writing and food!