When people think of Japanese cuisine, sushi is one of the first things that come to mind. While there are five main types of sushi, the list is constantly expanding as ingredients and tastes evolve with time.
Sushi refers to the Japanese dish consisting of rice flavored vinegar, sugar, and salt paired with toppings of a wide variety – from raw fish and seafood, to cooked meats, to vegetables.
In contrast to sushi, which always includes rice, sashimi refers to the Japanese dish that celebrates the taste of the raw ingredients alone. Sashimi is often misused to refer to raw fish exclusively, including raw fish paired with sushi rice. However, sashimi can refer both to raw fish and, more broadly, other meats and vegetables that are eaten independently to appreciate their freshness and flavor.
Photo by Lou Stejskal
Nigiri sushi comes from the Kanto region and is composed of sushi rice and typically seafood. A thin slice of fish or seafood, often raw, is placed on top a bite-sized portion of sushi rice. The price of nigiri sushi varies widely, depending on the quality of the ingredients. Expensive nigiri sushi is often an integral part of special feasts and celebrations in Japan. However, more affordable nigiri sushi options are a form of Japanese fast food, available at convenience stores and supermarkets throughout the country.
Chirashi, meaning “scattered”, is the perfect name for this type of sushi. In
chirashi sushi, sushi ingredients are mixed in with sushi rice in a bowl. In Japan, chirashi sushi is traditionally eaten during Hina Masturi, Girl’s Day or Doll Festival, which centers on praying for the health and happiness of young girls.
Sweeter than other types of sushi, inari sushi consists of sushi rice that is stuffed in pouches of seasoned abuurage (deep-fried tofu). It doesn’t contain any fish or seafood, making it a vegan- and vegetarian-friendly option. Easily made and widely available, inari sushi is eaten regularly in Japan as a form of fast food.
Temari sushi is made of small balls of sushi rice and ingredients decoratively placed on top. In contrast to nigiri sushi, temari sushi does not require complex molding techniques and thus is a popular option for home cooking and bento.
Also known as norimaki, maki sushi is a popular and easily-recognizable favorite. It is made by rolling sushi rice and other ingredients in a sheet of nori (seaweed). The result, a long tube, is then sliced into smaller sushi rolls – similar to a roll cake. Hosomaki refers to maki sushi that is small and rolled quite tightly, typically containing only one filling. Futomaki, on the other hand, is larger and can hold several ingredients at once. Unlike nigiri sushi, futomaki allows you to enjoy multiple sushi toppings in a single bite.
Oshi sushi, or hako sushi, is synonymous with Osaka sushi. Originating in the Kansai region, oshi sushi is made by first pressing sushi rice and toppings into a rectangular wooden box. Bite-sized pieces are then sliced from the large pressed block, resulting in distinctively angular sushi rolls.