Types of Sushi

  • May 15, 2017 / Lily Cernak

Sushi is one of the most iconic types of Japanese cooking! But did you know that there are many, many different types of sushi? In this article, we will introduce you to the six most common types of sushi!

#1: Maki-Zushi

Maki-Zushi is what many people outside of Japan may think of when they picture sushi.

The first part of the word (“maki”) comes from the verb “maku,” which means “to wrap” or “to coil.” Maki-Zushi is usually made by laying sushi ingredients out on a special mat.  Then it’s rolled up in the mat into a log shape.

From that point, the log is often cut into small pieces, although Maki-Zushi is also eaten in log form. When done, Maki-Zushi has dried seaweed on the outside. Then there’s a layer of rice, and finally one or more types of fish and/or vegetables in the center.

The inverse of Maki-Zushi, called Ura-Maki, is popular as well. “Ura” can mean “inside” or “behind.” And so Ura-Maki is just Maki-Zushi with the rice on the outside instead of the seaweed!

#2: NigirI-Zushi

Nigiri-Zushi and Maki-Zushi are easy to confuse.  They are both served as individual small pieces of about the same size.

The main difference is that Nigiri-Zushi is not rolled up with many small pieces of fish inside. Instead, it is simply a single piece of raw fish or cooked egg sitting atop a block of rice.

Much like Maki-Zushi, Nigiri-Zushi gets its name from the way this sushi is made. “Nigiri” comes from the verb “nigiru,” which means “to squeeze” or “to grasp tightly”. It’s what one would do to the rice to make it into the appropriate block shape for this type of sushi.

Sometimes Nigiri-Zushi has a narrow “belt” of seaweed to hold the rice and fish together. They use it instead of covering it up with sheath of dried seaweed.

You must know the ever-popular O-Nigiri, or rice ball. Its another Japanese food that shares the same etymology as Nigiri-Zushi. It’s created by squeezing rice into a round or triangular shape.

O-Nigiri often has fish, a pickled plum, non-dried seaweed, or some other filling in the center. It can use a dried seaweed shell to cover it but it’s optional.

Every supermarket and convenience store in Japan sell both sushi and O-Nigiri. O-Nigiri is very popular for home cooking because they are easy to make.

#3: Chirashi-Zushi

Chirashi-Zushi is probably one of the least familiar types of sushi to those living outside Japan. That is a shame because it’s the easiest kind to make!

Chirashi” comes from the verb “chirasu,” which means “to scatter.” Chirashi-Zushi is the Japanese equivalent of a burrito bowl. It has common components of sushi chopped up small and mixed up in a bowl of seasoned rice.

Chirashi-Zushi may contain many ingredients. But some common ones include small pieces of mushroom, fish roe, pickled radish, and egg, and seaweed.

#4: Te-Maki

Another type of sushi not commonly seen outside of Japan is Te-Maki. Te-Maki at first glance is quite similar to unsliced Maki-Zushi.  The difference is Te-Maki‘s shape is like a cone rather than a cylinder.

The ingredients in Te-Maki also tend to be a little larger and showier. Sometimes the ingredients spill out of the top of the cone like a cornucopia! The “te” in Te-Maki means “hand,” because you use your hand to eat this type of sushi.

#5: Futo-Maki

Futo-Maki is similar to Maki-Zushi, but is somewhat larger of a roll. The “futo” in Futo-Maki means “fat.” There is a special kind of Futo-Maki called an Ehou-Maki (“Lucky Direction Roll”). It’s made on Setsubun, a holiday in late winter.

Ehou-Maki has seven different filling ingredients. Eating this in log form is a must, without cutting them into pieces. If you cut the roll up to eat it, it will no longer be lucky!

#6: Inari-Zushi

Inari-Zushi is unlike other types of sushi we have discussed so far in appearance. Instead of wrapping in seaweed, Inari-Zushi is rice stuffed into a small pouch made of fried bean-curd!

This type of sushi is somewhat sweet. They can be a good option for children who are unenthusiastic about eating raw fish or vegetables. The reason for Inari-Zushi’s name actually has to do with mythology. “Inari” is the name of a Japanese deity associated with foxes, and in Japanese folklore foxes love bean-curd!

Kitsune-Udon” or “Fox-Udon is the result of that association. It’s an udon noodle with fried bean curd. If you visit an Inari shrine in Japan, you will see many statues of foxes.

Sushi is very inexpensive in Japan and is available at most supermarkets and convenience stores! A good time to buy sushi at a supermarket is in the evening, around dinnertime.

At this time many perishable items like sushi go on sale. While sushi is very easy to find in Japan, restaurants which specialize in sushi are not that common. This is an irony considering the strong association many people have with sushi and Japanese cooking.

However, if you get the opportunity, you should definitely check out Kaiten-Zushi restaurants. They use small plates on conveyor belts to carry sushi around the room! You can even order specific rolls from the kitchen. Some restaurants use a small model train to bring the sushi directly to your seat.

Do you ever make sushi at home? What kinds do you make? Make the foodies at Kawa Kawa Learning Studio happy and leave us a comment about your favorite types of sushi!

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