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Ebifurai-Maki(エビフライ巻き). Fried-Shrimp Roll.

In Japanese cuisine, Sushi ( Sushi?) is a food made of vinegared rice combined with various toppings or fillings, which includes seafood and can also include vegetables, mushrooms, eggs, or meat. Sushi toppings may be raw, like most fish; cooked; blanched; or marinated.

Sushi as an English word has come to refer to the complete dish (rice together with toppings); this is the sense used in this article. The original term Japanese sushi (-zushi in some compounds such as makizushi), written with kanji (Chinese characters) refers to the rice, not the fish or other toppings.


The word "sushi" originates from the practice of preserving fish by fermenting it in rice for months, a tradition which can be traced back to ancient Japan.

It was originated during Tang Dynasty in China, though modern Japanese adopted sushi evolved to have little resemblance to this original Chinese food

The common ingredient in all the different kinds of sushi is sushi rice (shari in Japanese). Variety arises in the choice of the fillings and toppings, the other condiments, and in the manner they are put together. The same ingredients may be assembled in various different ways, traditional and contemporary.


  • Nigiri-zushi (握り寿司, lit. two-cut or hand-formed sushi). Arguably the most typical form of sushi at restaurants, it consists of an oblong mound of sushi rice which is pressed between the palms of the hands, with a speck of wasabi and a thin slice of a topping (neta) draped over it, possibly bound with a thin band of nori. Assembling nigiri-zushi is surprisingly difficult to do well. It is sometimes called Edomaezushi, which reflects its origins in Edo (present-day Tokyo) in the 18th century. It is often served two to an order.
  • Gunkan-maki (軍艦巻, lit. warship roll). A special type of nigiri-zushi: an oval, hand-formed clump of sushi rice (similar to that of nigiri-zushi) that has a strip of nori wrapped around its perimeter to form a vessel that is filled with the topping. The topping is typically some soft ingredient that requires the confinement of the nori, for example, roe, natto, or (a contemporary fusion) macaroni salad. The gunkan-maki was invented at Kyubei restaurant (est. 1932) in Ginza and its invention significantly expanded the repertoire of soft toppings used in sushi.

Maki-zushi (roll)

  • Makizushi (巻き寿司, lit. rolled sushi or cut rolls). A cylindrical piece, formed with the help of a bamboo mat, called a makisu. Makizushi is generally wrapped in nori, a sheet of dried pressed laver that encloses the rice and fillings, but can occasionally be found wrapped in a thin omelette. Makizushi is usually cut into six or eight pieces, which constitute an order. Below are the common types of makizushi, although many other kinds exist.

    • Futomaki (太巻き, lit. large or fat cut rolls). A large cylindrical piece, with the nori on the outside. Typical futomaki are three or four centimeters diameter. They are often made with two or three fillings, chosen for their complementary taste and color. During the Setsubun festival, it is traditional in Kansai to eat the uncut futomaki in its cylindrical form. Futomaki is typically vegetarian, and can include toppings such as daikon and egg.
    • Hosomaki ( thin cut rolls). A small cylindrical piece, with the nori on the outside. Typical hosomaki are about two centimeters thick and two centimeters wide. They are generally made with only one filling.

      • Kappamaki, a kind of hosomaki filled with cucumber, is named after the Japanese legendary water imp fond of cucumbers, the kappa. Legend has it that carving one's name on a cucumber, then casting it into kappa-infested waters, will appease the kappa and allow the person whose name is written on the cucumber to swim safely. Kappamaki is consumed as a way of clearing the palate in-between eating raw fish, so that the flavors of the fish are distinct from one another.
      • Tekkamaki is a kind of hosomaki filled with tuna. "Tekka"  describes hot iron, which has a color similar to the red tuna flesh.
    • Uramaki( inside-out cut rolls). A medium-sized cylindrical piece, with two or more fillings. Uramaki differ from other maki because the rice is on the outside and the nori within. The filling is in the center surrounded by a liner of nori, then a layer of rice, and an outer coating of some other ingredient such as roe or toasted sesame seeds
  • Temaki ( hand rolls). A large cone-shaped piece, with the nori on the outside and the ingredients spilling out the wide end. A typical temaki is about ten centimeters long, and is eaten with the fingers since it is too awkward to pick up with chopsticks. Temaki must be consumed quickly after being made for optimal taste and texture, as the nori cone soon absorbs moisture from the filling, making it lose its crispness and become somewhat difficult to bite through.
  • Inari-zushi (稲荷寿司, stuffed sushi). A pouch of fried tofu filled usually with just sushi rice. It is named after the Shinto god Inari, whose messenger, the fox, is believed to have a fondness for fried tofU. The pouch is normally fashioned from deep-fried tofu (油揚げ or abura age). Regional variations include pouches made of a thin omelet (帛紗寿司 (hukusa-zushi) or 茶巾寿司 (chakin-zushi)) or dried gourd shavings (干瓢 or kanpyo).


  • Oshizushi (押し寿司, lit. pressed sushi). A block-shaped piece formed using a wooden mold, called an oshibako. The chef lines the bottom of the oshibako with the topping, covers it with sushi rice, and presses the lid of the mold down to create a compact, rectilinear block. The block is removed from the mold and cut into bite-sized pieces.


  • Chirashizushi ( scattered sushi). A bowl of sushi rice with the other ingredients mixed in. Also referred to as barazushi. It is commonly eaten in Japan because it is filling and easy to make. Chirashizushi most often varies regionally, and it is eaten annually as a part of the Doll Festival, celebrated in March in Japan.

    • Edomae chirashizushi (Edo-style scattered sushi) Uncooked ingredients artfully arranged on top of the rice in the bowl.
    • Gomokuzushi (Kansai-style sushi). Cooked or uncooked ingredients mixed in the body of the rice in the bowl.

 Narezushi (old style fermented sushi)

  • Narezushi (熟れ寿司, lit. matured sushi) is an older form of sushi. Skinned and gutted fish are stuffed with salt then placed in a wooden barrel, doused with salt again, and weighed down with a heavy tsukemonoishi (pickling stone). They are salted for ten days to a month, then placed in water for 15 minutes to an hour. They are then placed in another barrel, sandwiched, and layered with cooled steamed rice and fish. Then this mixture is again partially sealed with otosibuta and a pickling stone. As days pass, water seeps out, which must be removed. Six months later, this funazushi can be eaten, and it remains edible for another six months or more.
  • Funazushi (鮒寿司 Funazushi) is a dish in Japanese cooking which involves the fermentation of the funa fish, a member of the carp family. The dish is famous as a regional dish of Shiga Prefecture, and is considered to be a chinmi, a delicacy in Japanese cooking.


Various nigiri sushi in an ice sculpture

Various nigiri sushi in an ice sculpture

All sushi has a base of specially prepared rice, complemented with other ingredients.

Sushi rice

Sushi is made with white, short-grained, Japanese rice mixed with a dressing made of rice vinegar, sugar, salt, kombu, and occasionally sake. It is cooled to body temperature before being used. In some fusion cuisine restaurants, short grain brown rice and wild rice are also used.

Sushi rice (sushi-meshi) is prepared with short-grain Japonica rice, which has a consistency that differs from long-grain strains such as Indica. The essential quality is its stickiness. Rice that is too sticky has a mushy texture; if it is not sticky enough, it feels dry. Freshly harvested rice (shinmai) typically has too much water, and requires extra time to drain after washing.

There are regional variations in sushi rice, and of course individual chefs have their individual methods. Most of the variations are in the rice vinegar dressing: the Tokyo version of the dressing commonly uses more salt; in Osaka, the dressing has more sugar.

Sushi rice generally must be used shortly after it is made. The Wiki Cookbook has a simple recipe.


The seaweed wrappers used in maki and temaki are called nori. This is an algae traditionally cultivated in the harbors of Japan. Originally, the algae was scraped from dock pilings, rolled out into sheets, and dried in the sun in a process similar to making paper. Nori is toasted before being used in food.

Today, the commercial product is farmed, produced, toasted, packaged, and sold in standard-size sheets, about 18 cm by 21 cm in size. Higher quality nori is thick, smooth, shiny, black, and has no holes.

Nori by itself is edible as a snack. Many children love flavored nori, which is coated with teriyaki sauce. However, those tend to be cheaper, lesser quality nori that is not used for sushi.

TOPING and fillings

Yaki Anago-Ippon-Nigiri (焼きアナゴ一本握り). A roasted and sweet sauced whole conger.

Yaki Anago-Ippon-Nigiri (焼きアナゴ一本握り). A roasted and sweet sauced whole conger.

  • Fish
For culinary, sanitary, and aesthetic reasons, fish eaten raw must be fresher and of higher quality than fish which is cooked.
A professional sushi chef is trained to recognize good fish, which smells clean, has a vivid color, and is free from obvious parasites (many go undetected).
Only ocean fish are used raw in sushi; freshwater fish, which are more likely to harbor parasites, are cooked.
Commonly-used fish are tuna, Japanese amberjack, snapper, conger, mackerel and salmon. The most valued sushi ingredient is toro, the fatty cut of tuna. This comes in varieties ōtoro (often from the bluefin species of tuna) and chutoro, meaning middle toro, implying it is halfway in fattiness between toro and regular red tuna (akami).
  • Seafood
Other seafoods are squid, octopus, shrimp, fish roe, sea urchin (uni), and various kinds of shellfish. Oysters, however, are not typically put in sushi because the taste is not thought to go well with the rice. However, some sushi restaurants in New Orleans are known to have Fried Oyster Rolls, and Crawfish rolls.

Ebifurai-Maki(エビフライ巻き). Fried-Shrimp Roll.

Ebifurai-Maki(エビフライ巻き). Fried-Shrimp Roll.

  • Vegetables
Pickled daikon radish (takuan) in shinko maki, various pickled vegetables (tsukemono, fermented soybeans (natto) in nattō maki, avocado in California rolls, cucumber in kappa maki, asparagus, yam, tofu, pickled ume (umeboshi), gourd (kampyō), burdock(gobo), and sweet corn mixed with mayonnaise.
  • Red meat
Beef, ham, Sausage, and horse meat, often lightly cooked.
Note: It is a common misconception that in Hawaii, fried Spam is a popular local variation of sushi. In reality, Spam musubi differs from sushi in that its rice lacks the vinegar required to classify it as such. Spam musubi is correctly classified as onigiri.
  • Other fillings
Eggs (in the form of a slightly sweet, layered omelet called tamagoyaki), raw quail eggs riding as a gunkan-maki topping.


  • Shōyu
The common name for soy sauce. In sushi restaurants, may also be referred to as murasaki (lit. "purple").
  • Wasabi
A piquant paste made from the grated root of the wasabi plant. Real wasabi (hon-wasabi) is Wasabi japonica. Hon-wasabi has anti-microbial properties and may reduce the risk of food poisoning. The traditional grating tool for wasabi is a sharkskin grater or samegawa oroshi.
An imitation wasabi (seiyo-wasabi), made from horseradish and mustard powder and dyed green, is common. It is found at lower-end kaiten zushi restaurants, in bento box sushi, and at most restaurants outside of Japan, If it is manufactured in Japan, it may be labelled "Japanese Horseradish".
In sushi restaurants, wasabi may be referred to as namida ("tears").
  • Gari
Sweet, pickled ginger. Eaten to both cleanse the palette as well as to aid in the digestive process.
  • Ocha
In Japan, green tea (ocha) is invariably served together with sushi. Better sushi restaurants often use a distinctive premium tea known as mecha. In sushi vocabulary, green tea is known as agari.

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