Know your Sushi

Sushi is the most popular Japanese dish outside of Japan prepared using vinegared rice (shari) combined with other ingredients such as raw seafood (neta), vegetables, and tropical fruits.

For the Indian palate, sushi might be acquired taste which grows over a period of time. A common misconception is that sushi is only made of raw seafood, however there are some vegetarian options as well.

For health conscious folks, sushi is a nutritional meal considering the fresh ingredients which are low on fat and high on proteins, vitamins and minerals. The seafood ingredients are great source of omega-3 fatty acids which are crucial for healthy heart functioning. Well don’t be surprised why Japanese people have one of the longest life expectancy of any people in the world.

Sushi is often served with pickled ginger (Gari), wasabi and soy sauce (Shoyu). Wasabi has antimicrobial properties which may reduce the risk of food poisoning and pickled ginger is eaten in between sushi courses to cleanse the palate and aid in digestion and not as an additional topping. You can also use the ginger to brush your sushi with soy sauce using your chopsticks. In Japan green tea (known as Agari in sushi vocabulary) is served together with sushi.

Sushi is a popular part of a Bento Box meal (single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine very similar to our very own tiffin). 

Let’s take a look at some popular types of sushi with pictures & sushi names so you can order it next time like a pro:


Makizushi basically means "rolled sushi’. The sushi ingredients are rolled in rice, seaweed or a vegetable using a bamboo mat called a makisu and then cut up into bite-size pieces. These are also the best sushi rolls for beginners.

The main types of Makizushi are:

Hosomaki: Thin rolls with usually only one filling. Popular choices include tuna, cucumber, carrot, and avocado.

Chumaki: Medium rolls which are stuffed with two or more fillings

Futomaki: Thick rolls which are stuffed with two or more fillings

Temaki: Hand rolled into a large cone with ingredients spilling out of the wide end.

Uramaki: Inside-out roll which has the rice on the outside and the seaweed on the inside. This is also known as the California roll and has an interesting story to its origin at the Tokyo Kaikan restaurant in Little Tokyo - Los Angeles. Since most Americans disliked the texture of the seaweed, the chef turned the roll inside out thus putting the rice on the outside and seaweed inside which then worked well with the American customers.

Ehomaki: Lucky direction roll which are filled with exactly 7 ingredients as this is considered lucky. Common ingredients used in ehomaki are shitake mushrooms, eel, kanpyo and egg.

On a menu the commonly found Maki rolls include:

•    California Roll
•    Avocado Roll
•    Vegetable Roll
•    Eel Roll
•    Shrimp tempura roll
•    Cucumber Roll
•    Tuna Roll


The word Nigiri means squeezed or grasped.  The rice is hand-pressed and molded into a shape and then seafood is placed on top. Most chefs add wasabi between the rice and the seafood and so there is no additional sauce is required. However depending on your palate you might still prefer to dip the seafood side in soy sauce. Popular toppings on nigiri include octopus, eel, squid and sweet egg.

  • People assume that sushi should be eaten with chopsticks but it is actually recommended to eat maki rolls and nigiri (also known as hand sushi) with fingers.
  • Never mix wasabi into soy sauce, unless you’re eating sashimi.


If your idea of sushi was raw fish then sashimi is what you have been always been thinking about. Sashimi which means pierced body consists of slices of fish served raw and typically over a garnish. Sometimes regular steamed, boiled or sushi rice is served on the side. Popular sashimi-style sushi fish include salmon and tuna.


It’s proper to eat sashimi with chopsticks.


Chirashi (means scattered sushi) is very similar to sashimi. Here slices of raw fish (sometimes raw vegetables and garnishes) are placed over a bowl of vinegared sushi rice.

“Creative Commons Chirashi Don” by Joy Zeng is licensed under CC BY 2.0

With these popular types of sushi you are all set to be seated and order at a Sushi Bar and you can always get recommendations from the sushi chef.  Once you become a bit adventurous you can ask for “omasake” which means to “trust the chef” and gives the chef permission to make you anything he likes – like a Carte Blanche.

Some more basics of Sushi:
  • Be sure to check your allergies before consuming seafood sushi.
  • Before experimenting with fugu (the blowfish that’s poisonous if it’s cut the wrong way), be sure to check if the chef has a license to serve it.