The real sushi

September 25, 2019

Sushi has become more and more popular in the West, but are we sure that what we are eating is real Japanese sushi? Let's find out more about this ancient and complex culinary tradition of Japan.

Nigiri and maki sushi on a plate

Everybody loves sushi! Over the last ten years there has been no city in the western hemisphere that hasn't opened one or more Japanese restaurants and sushi bars. But what is really sushi?

Sushi is a dish of the Japanese cuisine made of rice, accompanied by fish, seaweed, vegetables or eggs, stuffed with raw, cooked or marinated ingredients, served wrapped in a strip of seaweed, resting on rice, or within a tofu crankset.

Nigiri and maki on a plate
Japanese sushi

What are the different types of sushi?

The different types of sushi are distinguished according to the filling and the combination of seasoning. Here are some types of sushi:

  • Makizushi: This is a small rice ball created with bamboo leaves called makisu, usually wrapped in nori, a sheet of dried seaweed. Depending on the shape, it is distinguished in Futomaki( "wide rolls"), Hosomaki( "thin rolls"). Temaki( "hand rolls") and Uramaki("inside-out rolls").
  • Oshizushi: this type of sushi is a block made using a wooden tool called oshibako, the size of a small bite.
  • Nigirizushi: it is made up of a hand-shaped rice dumpling, and usually garnished with wasabi and tied with a strip of nori.
  • Gunkanzushi: this type of sushi is composed of a small, oval rice, surrounded by a strip of nori and various ingredients, which may be for example fish eggs.
  • Inari / inarizushi: it's the "stuffed sushi", rice or other ingredients, inserted in a pocket of fried tofu, omelet or cabbage leaves.
  • Chirashizushi: it is a rice bowl also containing other typical ingredients of the sushi.
  • Edomae chirashizushi: it consists of raw ingredients elegantly mixed over the rice.
  • Gomokuzushi: A bowl of rice with raw and cooked ingredients.
  • Narezushi: this ancient form of sushi is prepared by removing the scales and internal organs from the fish, which are then filled with salt and placed in a wooden barrel to be pressed. Fermented for up to a month, they are then immersed in water, placed in a second barrel in layers with fish and cold boiled rice. Finally they are again sealed, while the water that flows out from them is drained. After about six months, the dish can be served and consumed.
  • Funazushi: freshwater fish is fermented in the absence of air. A real delicacy of the Japanese cuisine, it is typical of Shiga Prefecture.
Sushi ingredients like salmon and avocado
Rice, salmon, avocado: sushi ingredients

The ingredients of sushi

The typical ingredients that are combined in the preparation of the various types of sushi are the following:

  • Sushi rice: the true cornerstone of all sushi dishes, white rice, washed and cooked according to a particular method, then soaked in rice vinegar with sugar, heated salt, sake and kombu. The type of rice used is Japonica. To be eaten immediately after being prepared.
  • Nori: an edible seaweed that is used to wrap the rice rolls, toasted before being used.
  • Omelette: used for a particular variety of sushi to wrap the rolls of rice instead of the nori.
  • Fish: Fish is a typical sushi filling, but never fresh and raw. Raw fish is in fact first treated with a chiller. Freshwater fish is consumed cooked. The most common are tuna and salmon, or shellfish and seafood such as octopus, shrimp and eels.
  • Vegetables and fruit: other typical sushi fillings are soybeans, avocado, radish, cucumber, tofu and pickled plums.
  • Meat and eggs: beef and ham can also be used as fillings of sushi, together with eggs, usually in the form of thin omelettes.
  • Seasonings: sushi is commonly seasoned with soy sauce, wasabi, sweet pickled ginger, shiso and mirin, a sweet wine also known as sweet sake.

Are you feeling hungry now?