Basically, sushi is any type of dish that contains seasoned sushi rice as one of its ingredients. Of course, it is a Japanese cuisine, found and developed since ancient Japan, no doubt; but due to the highly popular, nowadays you could find sushi everywhere.
Sushi, what used to be a Japan’s fast food that sold in street stalls, has developed into international trend across the world, from street markets to luxurious restaurants. The taste is differ vastly from region to region too. For instance, in Japan, common sushi tend to be more flavor concentrate and simple, with few types of or even single ingredient(s) in each rolls (i.e. tuna roll, ume roll).
On contrary, in the States (or the Westerners), we love them all in combination, with the addition of cream cheese, avocado, crab stick, soft shell crab, salmon… (see list of popular American sushi rolls) Oh, and the pieces here are quite large too, not the typical bite size like in Japan. Due to this, it’s kind of hard to preserve the sushi etiquette: eating a sushi piece, be it nigiri, sashimi, or maki in one bite without putting its remaining down. I guess that’s why they passed out the extra serving plates in restaurants here.
Most Sushi beginners tend to confuse between sushi and sashimi. Just remember that while sushi is the piece with seasoned rice and toppings, sashimi is just the “meat” itself, often raw.
Zushi or sushi? You would come across this occasionally. They’re both corrected, and mean the same thing, you just use sushi when the word is standalone, and turns to -zushi whenever there is a name prefix. So without further ado, let’s dive into the details on all the different types of sushi that are popular on the market.
Nigirizushi or Nigiri the most traditional form of sushi, consists of a single topping over a palm-pressed compact oblong sushi rice. Any small hand pressed sushi using your palm belong to this category.
Some common raw toppings include thin or thick slice of sashimi like: salmon –Sake, tuna –Maguro, yellow tail –Hamachi, white tuna –Escolar, squid –Ika, clams –Hamaguri, whelk –Tsubugai, red snapper -Kurodai, butterflied scallop –Hotate, etc. These topping, when used raw usually has an under-coat small amount of wasabi. The best nigiri is the one that has bite size mouthwatering sushi rice and thick enough raw topping to complement the flavor. Sushi chefs had to spend years of practice before mastering cutting technique and variety flavor/texture nature of each species.
Sometimes, you may find those ingredients primed differently to achieve distinct flavor before bedding the sushi rice. Common priming include sear, smoke, cure and light cook with some sorts of dressing/seasoning. Sear beef -often used Wagyu or Kobe for their special flavor, salted mackerel –shime Saba, smoked salmon, octopus –Tako, boiled sweet shrimps –Ebi… are some examples.
Then there are toppings like broiled fresh water eel –Unagi, surf clam –Hokkigai, sea eel –Anago, imitation crab –Kani, sweet egg –Tamago that are usually bounded by a thin nori strip to the rice. In most restaurant, you will find Nigiri to come in pairs per serving size.
To make Nigiri, form a decent amount of sushi rice in the palm of your hand into an oblong shape, or use a Nigiri mold for easier shaping. Then lay the rice ball onto a plastic wrapper, add topping with a little dab of wasabi underneath, wrap, mound and press to compact. A note on the bedding sushi rice is that to make it stronger than you would regularly season (more salt and less sugar per say) to accompany the sashimi better. That’s why some restaurant would serve these over Himalayan salt slab to enhance the flavor.
Temari -sushi is a variant of Nigiri that is in small round ball shaped instead of the usual oblong. These colorful balls of sushi combine vibrant contrasting colors sashimi or cooked vegetable (to soften them) over seasoned sushi rice; that resemble those decorative ornaments(hence temari name). These are usually served during Hinamatsuri(Japan’s girl day) or special occasions in large batch of impressive colorful balls.
Gunkan maki is also called Japanese warship due to its overall shape look like that of a battle ship. It’s actually a ball of Nigiri that has its perimeter wrapped by a seaweed –nori strip with extra height leaving a bounded empty space atop the rice ball for loose ingredients.
The most common toppings for Gunkan maki are sea urchin –Uni, salmon roe –Ikura, capellin eggs –Masago, oyster –Kaki, bay scallops –Kobashira, fermented soybean -natto and quail eggs yolk –Uzura no tamago. Other raw ingredients are also used through dicing, chopping, smashing; then either go alone or combine with spice, sriracha, kewpie mayo, or panko crumb to create a unique mixture (varied by chefs) and place atop the Gunkan.
Gunkan is served and priced by pieces, often at a higher price range compare to other rolls’ pieces, mainly due to its exotic ingredients and longer handling times (detailed presentation).