Does a sushi menu confuse you even if it is printed in English? No wonder. Sushi chefs come up with new versions of sushi every day. But here are the general categories of sushi to help you understand sushi a little better.
These are sushi slices from a long roll. Maki-zushi is filled with a variety of fillings. There are two types of maki-zushi: futomaki (thick or fat rolls) and hoso-maki (thin rolls).
Futomaki rolls are filled with different ingredients, usually cooked. Typical futomaki fillings include sweet tamago (egg) omelet, kampyo (seasoned cooked gourd strips), cooked Shiitake mushrooms, marinated carrot, pickled radish, cooked flaked eel or tuna, and wilted greens.
Hoso-maki are thin rolls with only a single ingredient, sometimes two. Specific types of hoso-maki include tekka maki (tuna), kappa maki (cucumber) and oshinko maki (pickles).
These inside-out (ura means reversed) rolls are American inventions with the nori wrapped inside the sushi rice. California roll is a type of uramaki. Some credit a Little Tokyo chef named Mashita for inventing this popular sushi when his diners recoiled at the sight of black seaweed sheets. Today, there are lots of new creations from the better known Crunch Tempura Roll to specialty house rolls made up by individual sushi chefs every day.
Temaki Hand Roll Sushi
Te means hand; maki means rolled. These look like cones with a pointed end. The sushi chef traditionally rolls each one and hands it directly to the diner in order for the roll to be eaten immediately so the nori can be enjoyed while crispy. Nori sheets begin to get soggy the minute the moist sushi rice is placed on it so sushi should be eaten as soon as it is rolled.
Pretty much any filling that can be rolled can be turned into temaki. But there are some temaki fillings that are not generally found in maki rolls, such as toasted salmon skin that is best kept crisp in a hand roll.
Oshi means press or pressure. Sushi rice is pressed into molds and then unmolded. Mold types vary but traditionally were square. Sometimes, ingredients are layered with the rice. Other times, ingredients are decoratively arranged on the surface. Today, sushi chefs use interesting molds to create unique shapes, such as pyramids.
There is a type of oshi-zushi called hako-zushi. Hako means box and a square wooden bottomless box is used as the mold. A wooden press presses and then pushes the sushi rice out of the bottom. After unmolding, the hako-zushi is cut into squares.
Nigiri means grip. Nigiri-zushi is formed by gripping sushi rice in the palm of the hand and a process of pressing with two fingers of the opposite hand. Usually, the top of the nigiri is spread with a thin layer of wasabi paste and covered with a slice of raw fish. There are practically as many types of nigiri-zushi as there are type of fish and seafood!
Chirashi means scattered, and a chirashi sushi bowl is filled with sushi rice and then scattered with various sashimi (raw fish) and vegetables. Of course, sushi chefs take great pains not to simply scatter the ingredients which are attractively arranged on top of the sushi rice. The actual types of fish vary from restaurant to restaurant. You also can request your preferences.
Bara means brambles. Bara-zushi is sushi rice mixed with minced, par-boiled vegetables. It is served in a bowl like a rice salad.
Inari-zushi is sushi rice filled inside the pocket of seasoned abura-age (fried tofu) slices. It looks like a brown cone or little football so it is nicknamed cone sushi or football sushi by Americans. Sometimes, bara-zushi rice is filled in the abura-age.
There are other regional types of sushi, but these are the major categories of sushi. Now, if you want to order like a sushi pro and ask for specific nigiri sushi by name, read the article Nigiri Sushi Menu by yours truly at BellaOnline.com!