Here are six of the most common types of sushi, explained.
Nigiri consists of thinly sliced, raw fish pressed on top of sushi rice. There are some forms of nigiri that have cooked or seared fish, if you can’t bring yourself to eat it raw. Some types of nigiri are wrapped in seaweed to add extra flavor, such as unagi (eel) or kani (crabmeat) nigiri. Nigiri is a more traditional form of sushi and can be a great way to try several kinds of fish.
Common types of nigiri include sake (salmon), ahi (tuna), and ebi (shrimp), but there are many different kinds. Nigiri is usually served in pairs, so typically an order will consist of two pieces. However, some restaurants will offer plates with 6-12 pieces.
Sashimi consists of thin slices of raw fish such as salmon or tuna. It is not served with rice, but is usually be served on a bed of daikon radish. When you order sashimi, expect a plate of various types of sliced raw fish. How much you get depends on the kind of dish you order. Appetizer sashimi can be around nine pieces and an entree can have 16-20 pieces, but it really depends on the restaurant.
Maki is rolled sushi, and probably what you think of when someone mentions the delectable Japanese dish. Fish, veggies, or other ingredients are rolled in rice and wrapped with seaweed. A roll will consist of six pieces. I usually order around three rolls when I go out for a filling sushi meal. But you can also order a la carte, which will get you around two pieces (it’s convenient if you’re unsure whether you will like a certain roll).
Maki rolls can contain just about anything, from your average raw fish such as salmon, yellow tail, or tuna, to veggies such carrots and cucumbers. Some restaurants will even use chicken for non-fish eaters.
Uramaki is considered western-style sushi. It’s basically maki that’s inside out. The rice is on the outside and the seaweed is on the inside. Like maki, uramaki can consist of pretty much anything. Many “special” rolls will be made uramaki-style. Some common special rolls include the Dragon Roll, Rainbow Roll, and Spider Roll. Special rolls tend to have more than the average six pieces, often having around nine instead. It’s also common for restaurants to make their own special rolls unique to their brand or location.
Temaki is really cool. While standard rolls (maki and uramaki) are rolled with the help of a bamboo mat, temaki is rolled by hand. Because it’s rolled differently, temaki is coned shaped and larger than your average sushi roll. As a result, when you order temaki you’re probably getting just one roll. Again, depending on the restaurant, you may be able to get two or three in some “deluxe” menu item.
A common menu item at sushi spots is tempura rolls. Tempura rolls are basically deep fried maki or uramaki rolls. Tempura itself is basically a method of frying fish or vegetables in a light batter made of flour, water, and eggs. In other words, the western love of deep fried everything has even made it to the sushi world. Shrimp tempura rolls are probably the most popular tempura rolls out there, but some special rolls such as Tiger Rolls, Crunch Rolls, and Dragon Rolls.