Have you ever felt wondered what the difference is between some of the most common sushi dishes in a traditional Japanese sushi restaurant? If so, you are not alone. There's Sushi, Maki, and Hand rolls...it's enough to make your head spin. Each one is unique in its own delicious way and takes years of training for chefs to learn how to properly make. Here we will closely examine the similarities and differences between 2 of the lesser-known dishes: Sashimi vs Nigiri.
Depending on what kind of eater you are, and how adventurous you might be, there is something for everyone who prefers their fish served raw. Read on to learn more about the great sliced fish debate: Sashimi vs. Nigiri.
Traditional Japanese cuisine is often based on a few types of dishes including rice with miso soup. Sushi dishes will often include seasonal ingredients whenever possible. For side dishes, you will sometimes see vegetables either pickled or cooked in broth and seafood is very common. You can eat seafood grilled or served as raw slices of fish as you see in the many types of sushi, sashimi, and nigiri.
What are the most common types of sushi?
What does sushi mean in Japanese Cuisine? Several dictionaries, including the Miriam Webster dictionary, confirm that the actual definition of sushi is: cold rice dressed with vinegar, formed into any of various shapes, and garnished especially with bits of raw seafood or vegetables. According to another web source, the word Japanese word sushi means, "sour rice," a nod to the tradition of moistening the rice with vinegar. As it turns out, this is what all forms of sushi have in common. They are different in their formation, or how they are topped or filled.
You will find many different forms of sushi dishes in a traditional Japanese restaurant. Depending on what kind of eater you are, you might prefer one form over another. For example, you might prefer to have only vegetables in your sushi and thus a maki roll might make the most sense. In a maki roll, you can have vegetables like cucumber and carrot paired with avocado, for example. Let's look at all the different ways you can find sushi served raw or otherwise.
Types of Rolls
Maki Roll: What people most often think of when they think of sushi dishes
Usually includes any combination of vegetables, and/or fish; cooked or served raw
Wrapped in rice or seaweed on the outside
Served in 6-8 bite-sized pieces
Most often paired with soy sauce or wasabi
Hand Roll: Coned shaped sushi you eat with your hands
Usually, a combination of rice, vegetables, or fish cooked or served raw
You eat with your hands
Sometimes thought of as the the "taco of sushi"
Wait, there's more?
If you've only ever had maki rolls or hand-rolled sushi, you are in for a real treat. Get excited...especially if you love eating slices of fish served raw! There are other types of Japanese dishes that many people might not even know about. That's right, I'm talk about those beautiful creations of plump, colorful fish sitting daintily atop a thoughtfully-shaped mound of rice. It's a true work of art. But it's also a completely delicious treat that you should try immediately if you haven't yet! Here comes the aforementioned important debate...sashimi vs. nigiri.
So...what's the difference anyway?
Suffice it to say that there are a great many people who have perhaps not even heard these 2 words before. Or maybe they've heard of one of them, or even both, but are thinking, "what in the world is that?" While you commonly can find these delicacies in most traditional Japanese restaurants, neither of them is the go-to for the majority of people eating Japanese food.
These lesser-known morsels of sliced fish have some things in common. One of these commonalities is the fact that they are meticulously and artfully prepared, and experts consider this as important as the taste. Read on to learn more about sashimi vs. nigiri, and be more prepared for an educated ordering experience next time you eat Japanese cuisine.
To the untrained eye, nigiri can often look like a very close relative of sushi. Technically, it is just "unrolled" sushi, usually topped with seafood. Some consider it a simplistic delight in traditional Japanese cuisine compared to some of the more grandiose sushi rolls you see on some menus today. Types of (mostly raw) seafood you might commonly see on top of rice for a nigiri roll include:
If you don't eat fish, you might choose to top your rice with deep-fried tofu instead. In addition, you have the option of also including vegetables like cucumber, carrot, green peppers or avocado. Generally, you eat nigiri with wasabi, soy sauce, and pickled ginger if you choose. You can eat nigiri with chopsticks or with your hands. Both are acceptable.
You can also describe Nigiri as sushi consisting of a small ball of rice smeared with wasabi sauce and topped with raw fish or other seafood. It's a type of sushi that combines a small mound of vinegar-flavored rice with a topping of raw or cooked seafood. These two ingredients are all you need to create a perfect match of flavors and textures. However, here are some other things you might find prepared as nigiri:
Ebi Nigiri - Cooked butterflied shrimp
Tamago Nigiri - Cooked egg omelet
Unagi Nigiri - Grilled freshwater eel
Sake Nigiri - Raw salmon
Maguro Nigiri - Raw tuna
And now... Sashimi
Although some people use this term interchangeably with "sushi, " they are not the same concept.
Sashimi is a Japanese dish of bite-sized pieces of raw fish. Sashimi is usually eaten with soy sauce and wasabi paste. If you've seen a dish that is basically just sliced raw fish, this is sashimi.
Technically, sashimi isn’t a type of sushi because it contains no rice. Although it is not sushi, it plays an important role in Japanese cuisine. Sashimi is thinly sliced fish or meat, that is often served raw. It can be any type of meat, but fish and seafood are the most common types of sashimi.
You can also have cooked fish In sashimi, like for unagi, which is grilled eel. You will often see slices of sashimi on a bed of daikon radish with soy sauce. You don't even really need any other toppings or fillings because sashimi is actually mostly about the flavors of the fresh fish. This also means the freshness of the fish really matters!
Types of fish used for sashimi
Here are types of fish you might commonly see used raw for sashimi:
fluke (summer flounder)
While you can find these fish year-round in most markets, most traditional Japanese restaurants will try to include fish that are in season.
So...what to order?
In the epic battle of sashimi vs. nigiri, it mostly comes down to personal preference. Do you like to include rice with your sushi? Do you prefer your slices of fish cooked, or served raw? Here at Under Wraps Sushi, we have a handpicked menu of delicious treats waiting for you to try. While we don't currently include nigiri on our menu, we do have a variety of unique sashimi and hand roll options. If you haven't tried these yet, we'd love to help you broaden your Japanese cuisine palate by trying out some of our best sashimi picks today!