Are you new to sushi? If you are, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of new sushi-related Japanese terms and words. But not to worry – everyone starts somewhere! Let’s start with three of the most basic sushi-related words: sushi, sashimi, and nigiri.
First up: Sushi. Many people see the word “sushi” and think it means “raw fish” - but for a dish to be considered sushi, it does not have to have fish at all! Sushi is an umbrella term which means: A Japanese dish with seasoned vinegared rice, with widely varying methods of preparation and other ingredients. Sushi can have nearly any kind of filling or topping; the only thing it must have to be considered sushi is the seasoned vinegar rice, also known as sushi rice.
So, the one essential ingredient of sushi is the sushi rice! Common sushi dishes include:
Maki: “rolled” sushi – the sushi rolls that most people are familiar with.
Chirashi: “scattered” sushi – sushi rice with slices of raw fish and vegetables arranged on top.
Inarizushi: a pouch of fried and seasoned tofu filled with sushi rice.
Nigiri: “hand-pressed” sushi – we describe nigiri sushi in more detail further below!
Next up is Sashimi: a Japanese delicacy of raw fish or meat sliced into thin pieces and often served with soy sauce and wasabi. There is no rice in sashimi, therefore sashimi is not sushi at all! Sashimi is often the first course in a formal, traditional Japanese meal, and is cut into differing thicknesses to highlight the fish or meat’s delicate flavor as well as texture.
Lastly, we have Nigiri. People often confuse sashimi with nigiri, and vice versa. An important distinction between the two is that nigiri is a sushi dish, and contains sushi rice. Earlier, we described nigiri as “hand-pressed” sushi, which refers to the way it is made.
Nigiri is made by pressing sushi rice into an oblong, oval mound, and then laying a topping over the hand-pressed rice. The topping is nearly always sliced fish, but can also include other ingredients like octopus, eel, roe (fish eggs), tamagoyaki (Japanese egg omelette), uni (sea urchin), and more.
With loose ingredients like sea urchin or roe, the preparation is a bit different. Instead of shaping sushi rice into an oblong ball, the sushi rice is pressed into a circular shape and wrapped in a short cylinder of seaweed, which is then filled with the loose topping.
And there we have it: sushi, sashimi and nigiri! You are likely to come across many more sushi-related Japanese words, and we’ve touched on some in this blog post already (maki, tamagoyaki, uni). But as with everything in life, it’s important to master the basics before moving onto the more advanced. We hope your love and appreciation for sushi grows along with your delicious first hand experience of it!
Treat yourself to delicious maki rolls, sashimi and more, here at 1800 Cut Steak & Sushi in Glenview, IL!