Sushi technically means “marinated rice,” but the term is now used to refer to an entire Japanese culinary tradition. The most popular forms of sushi eaten in the U.S. are nigiri, maki and sashimi.
Maki means “roll” and is a round piece of sushi, sometimes with other fillings such as seafood, fruit and vegetables, all surrounded by rice cooked with vinegar and wrapped in nori. Maki is the most common form of sushi found in the U.S., and captures the greatest share of sales.1
Hosomaki are thin rolls consisting of sushi rice and one or two ingredients rolled tightly in a sheet of nori. The roll is then cut into small slices before serving. Cucumber rolls and salmon rolls are common types of hosomaki.
Futomaki means “fat roll” and is thicker than hosomaki. It is usually made with several ingredients and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Temaki are hand-held cone-shaped sushi rolls made of nori sheets that have been cut in half. These hand rolls have a fun appearance, with ingredients overflowing from the top of the cone.
Uramaki is an inside-out roll, meaning that the sushi rice is on the outside. The roll may then be topped with garnishes like sesame seeds or fish roe. This type of maki includes the popular California roll.
Gunkan, also known as battleship maki because of its shape, consists of nori rolled around a pad of nigiri rice to form an oval-shaped cup. The roll is topped with fish eggs for a salty bite.
Nigiri is a type of sushi made with sushi rice that is hand-formed into a small oval ball and served with sliced fish on top. Depending on the species, the fish may be served raw in thin slices, grilled, marinated or flambéed.
Sashimi is raw fish sliced thin and served as is, with no rice. As sushi means marinated rice, sashimi is not sushi by definition. Even so, it is included in the sushi family because it is a traditional Japanese dish.
Wasabi, also known as Japanese horseradish, is a stem that grows naturally along streambeds in Japanese mountain river valleys. It has a strong, pungent flavor often compared to horseradish or strong mustard. It is generally sold either as a stem, which must be very finely grated before use, as dried powder, or as a ready-to-use paste. It is common to mix the wasabi directly into the soy sauce to get the desired strength.
Nori are dark green paper-thin sheets of dried or toasted seaweed used for maki. Nori has been eaten in Japan and China for centuries, and is important in Japanese cuisine.
Gari is thinly sliced young ginger that is marinated in a solution of vinegar and sugar. Young ginger is generally preferred for gari because of its tender flesh and natural sweetness. Gari is consumed after the sushi and sashimi, usually in between bites. Pickled ginger is said to cleanse the palate and prepare your taste buds for the next piece. It is considered to be essential in the presentation of sushi.