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Types of Sushi

How to Read a Sushi Menu

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Sushi may be one of our favorite Japanese meals, but unless you were raised with chopsticks in one hand and a bento box in the other, the world of rice rolls and raw fish can be a bit intimidating to navigate.

If you aren't fluent in sushi speak, there's no need to worry. Here's a go-to glossary that will help you keep everything straight. In Japan, many traditional sushi bars don't even have menus, but these are some terms you might come across when dining at one in the States.

  • Nigiri: Hand-shaped pieces of fish-topped sushi rice (rice that's been seasoned with vinegar, sugar, and salt). These can be eaten with chopsticks or your fingers.
  • Sashimi: Raw fish served chilled, without rice, sometimes on a bed of daikon or with a variety of vegetable garnishes.
  • Maki or makimono: Rolls made from sushi rice and seaweed filled with fish or vegetables. There are many different types of maki.
  • Temaki: Cones of nori (dried seaweed) filled with sushi rice, as well as fish and/or vegetables. Similar to maki, these are also known as hand rolls.
  • Inari: Pouches of seasoned, fried tofu that are stuffed with sushi rice.
  • Chirashi: A combination of raw fish and vegetables served on a bed of sushi rice. It's essentially a sushi salad.

Learn more about the different types of maki:

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  • Futomaki: Large rice and seaweed rolls, about two inches in diameter, filled with fish or vegetables.
  • Hosomaki: Smaller cylindrical rolls (about an inch in diameter) consisting of a seaweed exterior and filled with rice and one ingredient, such as fish or a vegetable.
  • Uramaki: Rolls that have been created inside-out with rice on the exterior, and nori on the interior. Uramaki are typically sized in between futomaki and hosomaki, filled with two or more ingredients, and coated in sesame seeds or small fish roe.
  • Gunkanmaki: Gunkan or "battleship" maki are oval-shaped rice balls wrapped in nori and topped with fish or fish roe.

Here some other common terms that may come up on your sushi menu:

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  • Wakame: A type of seaweed that is most commonly served as a shredded salad and is also sometimes added to miso soup.
  • Daikon: A white radish that is often paired with sashimi and other raw fish.
  • Nori: Dried seaweed; it gives structure to maki and temaki.
  • Sunomono: Sunomono refers to a variety of vinegar-dressed (oil-free) salads, cucumber being the most common variety.
  • Gari: Pickled ginger.

— Additional reporting by Susannah Chen

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