Sushi has earned a place in our hearts. It’s everywhere now, from mall kiosks to the supermarket aisles, from all-you-can-eat sushi bars to Michelin stared gastro-temples. You can pay 300 dollars for a few pieces of sushi at a high-end restaurant in Tokyo, or you can spend spare change for a roll at the grocery store.
It’s clear that not all sushi is the same. The quality of the ingredients and mastery of the chef play an essential role. There’s good sushi, and then there’s great one, but no matter how you roll, you have to master the basics.
These are the five most common styles of sushi to get to know and love.
Maki means rolled. The most popular sushi is made by rolling rice and various ingredients with the help of a bamboo mat called makisu.
Traditionally a seaweed sheet called nori hold everything together, and it can be either on the inside or the outside. If the rice is on the outside, then you’re eating uramaki. An over-sized roll is called futomaki.
Fillings can be incredibly varied. Shrimp, salmon, tuna or eel, complimented with cucumber, cream cheese or (basically) anything else makes each roll unique.
Did you know rice vinegar is a key ingredient in sushi rice? It gives it its lovely perfume and mouthwatering tartness.
Also rolled, but in the shape of a cone. Temakis are also called hand rolls and are incredibly satisfying. A nori sheet holds the rice and ingredients in place; like an ice cream cone, temakis can be topped with all kinds of goodies like orange-hued salmon eggs.
If you like eating with your hands, or simply don’t feel like grappling with your chopsticks, temakis are for you. Enjoy this beauty in a hurry; you don’t want the dried seaweed to get soggy.
Onigiris are stuffed balls of rice. They might not sound too exciting but trust us, they are. Popular fillings include tuna and mayo, shrimp, cured fish, fish roe, and squid. The perfect on-the-go treat is trendy in Japan, and it’s catching up elsewhere.
You know you’re tasting a good onigiri because the rice is still moist, and the fillings are generous. The dish has become a tool for creativity as chefs, both contemporary and traditional step out of the box.
This is the classic style of sushi, incredibly simple; it’s the hardest to master. Traditionally, chefs train for years to get the rice just right, to make the perfect bite-sized nigiris and to source the finest, freshest ingredients.
Fish over rice, that’s it; there’s no hiding here — simplicity at its best. Chefs might add a special touch to each sushi piece, a brushstroke of eel sauce, or a dab of wasabi, look closely, or you’ll miss it.
Pro tip: When acceptable, dip your nigiri in soy sauce, but only the fish, never the rice.
Sashimi is the best way to celebrate the bountiful treasures of the sea. Fresh fish is carefully sliced and served raw. Purists might say sushi and sashimi are not even in the same family, because there’s no rice in sashimi. This might be true, but as long as they sit side by side in restaurant menus, we’ll just treat them as close friends.
Add the deadly puffer fish sashimi to your foodie bucket list. You’ll thanks us later.