It’s Not All Raw

When you mention sushi, 60% of your friends will grimace and make some snide comment about eating bait. The other 40% probably know the definitions of two or three dozen Japanese words.

Uncooked Sushi rice

Speak to me.

Before you go to the posh sushi bar, learn a little Japanese, so you do not sound like Jethro. The term “sushi bar” is typical American slang. Not everything served at the sushi restaurant is sushi. As a matter of fact, not everything even has sushi in it. So, there.

So…what is sushi?

Vinegared rice. Never saw that coming, did you? Sushi is not fish. It is rice.

Why do they call it “sushi rolls”?

Because the sushi is the biggest ingredient and the glue which holds the everything else together inside the nori. Nori is the Japanese word for kelp.

Nori, geröstete Blätter aus Algen, die vor all...

Image via Wikipedia

You got it. The bluish, greenish, blackish, papery strip which holds the roll together is seaweed. And it is good for you. It is packed full of vitamins.

Maki containing various vegetables, from Sushi...

Image via Wikipedia

So, what do the Japanese call “sushi rolls”?

Maki is the Japanese name for rolled sushi, nori and vegetables. Maki can include seafood, or not. Some maki is rolled in sesame seeds, but many are rolled in roe. Roe? Yes, fish eggs. Many different species besides besides sturgeon produce very tasty eggs.

The rolls are hard to eat with chop sticks.

For the chop-stick-challenged, temaki is the next best choice. If you were not too keen on the nori in the roll, you may be surprised by this incarnation. Temaki is a large piece of nori, rolled into a cone and filled with sushi and vegetables and sometimes seafood. If you are not fond of nori, just eat what is inside.

Temaki de Huevas de Salmón (Ikura), Aguacate y...

Temaki Image by jlastras via Flickr

Where’s the fish?

A salmon rose, part of a sashimi dinner set. T...

If you are looking for sashimi, (above) Japanese for a fillet of seafood, you need to order nigiri, chirashi or sasazushi. Nigiri is a rolled-up ball of sushi, wrapped with nori and topped with wasabi (green Japanese horseradish) and sashimi.

Japanese Sushi Works By Hanazakura

Chirashi is a bowl of sushi topped with vegetables and sashimi. This is the best choice of the chop-stick-impaired and the nori-intolerant.

Chirashi by comicpie in Toronto

Sasazushi is another form of nigiri. Instead of wrapping the sushi with nori, the sushi, vegetables and sashimi are wrapped in bamboo leaves. Another good choice for the nori-intolerant.

Sasazushi, a type of oshizushi

The American term “sushi bar” does not do the art created by talented sushi chefs justice. Remember, sushi does not mean “raw fish”.

Typical home delivery Sushi platter.


NEXT: Sushi risks

Have you ever tried maki, temaki, sashimi, nigiri, saszushi or chirashi? What did you like or dislike about it?


(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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  1. I’d have maki, sashimi and chirashi. My favorite is maki. They’re all so yummy. I love pickled ginger and the wasabi too! YUM!

    Very informative post

  2. Immediately after I give birth (and I mean literally after I cuddle the baby and kiss my husband), I am going to eat my weight in tuna and salmon sashimi. These are the only foods I’ve missed during pregnancy.

    • I hear you! I know I had a girlfriend bring it to the hospital for me…Is there a real reason your doctor told you you could not have it once per week? I am still trying to wrap my brain around some of the OB advice these days. Red.

      • He strongly advised against all uncooked and undercooked meats. I would feel nervous eating cooked tuna anyway now because of the mercury content. Luckily, I can still eat California rolls and I regularly buy fresh Korean gim (nori) and munch on it with kimchi and rice.

        • Follow the rule of thumb…6 ounces of fish per day to avoid mercury. I took the advice of a neurologist and did fish every other day with half being freshwater fish. The nori is fantastic for you and especially your skin, and we all want to fight stretch marks. Personally, I ate veggie rolls throughout and ate sashimi after the first trimester, in moderation of course. I just could not argue with generations of Japanese children. How do you like kimchi?

  3. James Parsons

     /  November 20, 2011

    I have tried sushi, but that I don’t not enjoy the taste, but that was packaged not. I would try it again but this time it would have to be fresh. My motto is ( try any thing once twice if I like it).

    • Packaged sushi (which is always maki in the US) is dry and tasteless. You absolutely have to try it fresh. The difference is worlds apart. Thanks for stopping by to comment! Red.

  4. Ah So… Well I don’t speak Japanese so unless one is allowed to simplify the lingo, for instance if one wishes to eat out, whether it is at a Sushi restaurant or indeed the low-cost version of a Japanese take away one still has to have a little decorum.

    Tthis can be achieved by learning a few choice phrases, and pass the Suzuki buddy is definitely not one of them but alternative terms of expressionism such as Kawasaki with Bean Sprouts and Honda Fries could easily be incorporated into the order to hopefully present a credible response, however the menu could suffer a little if Yamaha and Hitachi are omitted, but as Akai has offered such a fine example of Japanese cuisine here I am sure that I can be excused for my ridiculous approach to ordering the Japanese Feast of Plenty…

    Well I do hope so anyway? 🙂

    have a wickedly excellent rest of day and evening Akai…

    Or better known as…
    Andro XXx

    • Oh, Andro, you just need more sake. After a couple more bottles, the lingo will drip from your tongue. As adroit as you are, you will be convincingly native. …right there…a bit of wasabi on your chin… Wickedly wonderful night to you, Red.

  5. Very interesting article. I love Japanese food. Well, not all of the dishes, but most of them. I love your blog. Keep writing. We appear to have the same irks and value system.

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