The Culinary Corner: Beginner’s Guide to Sushi

The Culinary Corner: Beginner's Guide to Sushi | Positively Smitten

My current love this week is sushi, and everyone should try and experience sushi at least once in their lives. Here’s a guide to introduce you to the basics.


Nigiri: nigiri is hand formed sushi. A palm of rice squeezed, then a piece of fish on top of said rice. (Tuna and salmon are the most common types.)

Gunkan roll:  is basically a ball of rice wrapped with seaweed to hold soft topping placed on the rice. (Most common soft toppings are roe, sea urchin, and spicy tuna.)

Maki: the most well-known form of sushi in America, more complex combinations and fillings rolled with rice and/or seaweed using a bamboo mat. (The most popular rolls being California, Philadelphia, and Boston.) Types of Maki include hosomaki (smaller rolls of about 1 inch in diameter and only has on filling), futomaki (2 inches in diameter, seaweed on the outside, may have multiple fillings), and uramaki (2 inches in diameter, rice on the outside, may have multiple fillings).

Tamaki roll: a cone shaped roll. This is done by laying the fillings on a seaweed sheet and rolling into a cone.

Sashimi: raw fish served without rice.

(There are several other types, of course; these are just the ones you’ll mostly encounter at sushi bars in America.)

Items Found in or with Sushi:

Nori: seaweed.

Wasabi: Japanese horseradish, can be mixed into soy sauce, or used singularly (most only mix into soy sauce when eating sashimi).

Soy sauce: dip the fish into the soy sauce, not the rice.

Pickled ginger: a palate cleanser.

Helpful Translation:

(Items with * are generally served raw, and some menus may make a note of cooked items.)

  • Ahi: ahi tuna*
  • Aji: Japanese jack mackerel*
  • Ama Ebi: sweet shrimp*
  • Anago: saltwater eel
  • Ayu: sweetfish
  • Ebi: jumbo shrimp
  • Hamachi: young yellowtail*
  • Hirami: halibut, fluke
  • Hokki-Gai: surf clam*
  • Hotategai: scallop*
  • Ika: squid*
  • Ikura: salmon roe*
  • Iseebi: lobster*
  • Kaibashira: scallop*
  • Kaki: oyster*
  • Kamaboko Kani: imitation crab
  • Kani: crab leg
  • Kunsei Sake: smoked salmon
  • Maguro: tuna*
  • Maka-Jiki: swordfish*
  • Masago: smelt roe*
  • Masu: trout*
  • Namako: sea cucumber*
  • Namera: grouper*
  • Natto: fermented soybeans
  • Saba: mackerel*
  • Sake: salmon*
  • Sanma: mackerel pike
  • Shirasu: baby anchovies*
  • Suzuki: sea bass*
  • Tai: seabream snapper*
  • Tairagai: pen shell clam*
  • Tako: octopus*
  • Tamago: egg
  • Tobiko: flying fish roe*
  • Toro: fatty tuna*
  • Unagi: freshwater eel
  • Uni: sea urchin roe*

Helpful Etiquette:

  • Using your fingers is acceptable if you aren’t great with chopsticks.
  • Put the whole portion (roll) in your mouth, don’t take a bite and put the rest on your plate.
  • Dip the fish into the soy sauce, not the rice.
  • Don’t put the ginger onto your sushi, the ginger is to be eaten in between as a palate cleanser.

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