Sushi is a typical Japanese food with over a thousand years of history and tradition. It has become perhaps the most visible example of Japanese cuisine in other countries. Consists of cold cooked rice dressed with vinegar that is shaped into bite-sized pieces and topped with raw or cooked fish, or formed into a roll with fish, egg, or vegetables and wrapped in seaweed or stuffed in a small tofu pouch.
The common ingredient in all the different kinds of sushi is sushi rice. Variety arises in the choice of the fillings and toppings, in the choice of the other condiments, and in the manner it is put together. The same ingredients may be assembled in entirely different ways to different effect. The following are some of the more common ingredients.
Types of Sushi
As many ingredients that are used, there is also just as many ways to prepare and assemble those ingredients. This page goes through the ways of preparing sushi. However when it comes to ordering these types, it is simply not as simple as saying what "type" of sushi you want, as each type has it's variations and possble ingredients. So if you want Nigiri, you will need to tell your sushi chef (Itamae-san) what you want it made of such as tuna, salmon, yellow tail, etc. Same thing applies to ordering other types of sushi as well.
Note that in word combinations in which "sushi" is the second word "sushi" becomes "zushi". Example: Makizushi
(rolled sushi) The most comon rolled type of sushi is maki. Usually a cylindrical piece, formed with the help of a woven bamboo mat, called a makisu. Makizushi is the form of sushi with which many Westerners are most familiar. Makizushi is generally wrapped in nori, a sheet of dried seaweed that encloses the rice and fillings. There are other forms of rolled sushi that are all in the maki family as described below.
(large rolls) A large cylindrical piece, with the nori on the outside. Typical futomaki are two or three centimeters thick and four or five centimeters wide. They are often made with two or three fillings, chosen for their complementary taste and color.
(thin rolls) A small cylindrical piece, with the nori on the outside. Typical hosomaki are about two centimeters thick and two centimeters wide. They are generally made with only one filling, simply because there is not enough room for more than one.
(hand rolls) A large cone-shaped piece, with the nori on the outside and the ingredients spilling out the wide end. A typical temaki is about ten centimeters long, and is eaten with the fingers since it is too awkward to pick up with chopsticks.
(inside-out rolls) A medium-sized cylindrical piece, with two or more fillings. Uramaki differ from other maki because the rice is on the outside and the nori within. The filling is in the center surrounded by a liner of nori, then a layer of rice, and an outer coating of some other ingredient such as roe or toasted sesame seeds.
(pressed sushi) A block-shaped piece formed using a wooden mold, called an oshibako. The chef lines the bottom of the oshibako with the topping, covers it with sushi rice, and presses the lid of the mold down to create a compact, rectilinear block. The block is removed from the mold and cut into bite-sized pieces.
(hand-formed sushi) Small pieces nominally similar to pressed sushi or rolled sushi, but made without using a makisu or oshibako. Assembling nigirizushi is surprisingly difficult to do well. The simplest form is a small block of sushi rice with a speck of wasabi and a thin slice of a topping draped over it, possibly tied up with a thin band of nori.
(battleship roll) A small, oval-shaped piece, similar in size and appearance to hosomaki. A clump of rice is hand-wrapped in a strip of nori, but instead of a filling in the center, it has some ingredient such as fish eggs piled on top.
(stuffed sushi) A small pouch or pocket filled with sushi rice and other ingredients. The pouch is fashioned from deep-fried tofu (abura age), a thin omelet (fukusazushi), or cabbage leaves (kanpyo).
(scattered sushi) A bowl of sushi rice with the other ingredients mixed in. Also referred to as barazushi.
(Edo-style scattered sushi) Uncooked ingredients artfully arranged on top of the rice in the bowl.
(Kansai-style sushi) Cooked or uncooked ingredients mixed in the body of the rice in the bowl.
Sushi is made with a white, short-grained, sweet rice mixed with a dressing made of rice vinegar, sugar, salt, konbu, and sake. It is cooled to body temperature before being used.
Sushi rice (sushi-meshi) is made with Japonica rice, which has a consistency that differs from the strains commonly eaten outside of Japan. The essential quality is its stickiness. Rice that is too sticky has a mushy texture; if it is not sticky enough, it feels dry. Freshly harvested rice (shinmai) typically has too much water, and requires extra time to drain after washing.
There are regional variations in sushi rice, and of course individual chefs have their individual methods. Most of the variations are in the rice vinegar dressing: the Tokyo version of the dressing commonly uses more salt; in Osaka, the dressing has more sugar.
Sushi rice generally must be used shortly after it is made.
The vegetable wrappers used in maki and temaki are called nori. It is an edible seaweed traditionally cultivated in one of the harbors of Japan. Originally, the plant was scraped from dock pilings, rolled out into sheets, and dried in the sun in a process similar to making paper. Nori is toasted before being used in the food.
Today, the commercial product is farmed, produced, toasted, packaged, and sold in standard-size sheets, about 18 cm by 21 cm in size. Higher quality nori is thick, smooth, shiny, and has no holes through it.
For both sanitary and aesthetic reasons, fish eaten raw must be fresher and higher quality than cooked fish. A professional sushi chef is trained to recognize good fish, which smells clean, has a vivid color, and is free from harmful parasites. Only ocean fish are used raw in sushi; freshwater fish, which are more likely to harbor parasites, are cooked.
Commonly-used fish are:
smoked salmon (sake kunsei)
red snapper (tai)
The most prized sushi ingredient is known as toro, a fatty, marbled cut of tuna.
Fish is not the only meat included in sushi. Other seafood is commonly used. Some of it is cooked, some is raw, some is salt water, some is fresh. The can be:
sweet shrimp (amaebi)
salmon roe (ikura)
smelt roe (masago)
flying fish roe (tobiko)
sea urchin (uni)
Pickled daikon radish, fermented soybeans (natto), avocado, cucumber, tofu, pickled plum.
Eggs in the form of a slightly sweet, layered omelet, called tamago. Raw quail eggs (uzura) are put on top of a maki roll of usually flying fish roe (tobiko).
Shoyu (Soy sauce)
Wasabi (Green paste with a sharp, horseradish-like flavor)
Gari (Sweet, pickled ginger)