Japanese and Western Types of Sushi

Japanese and Western Types of Sushi

Sushi can be found in almost all major metropolitan areas, from Tokyo to Dubai to Los Angeles. Sushi is a longstanding element of Japanese cuisine that is widely loved in its native land and has been adopted and reinvented by foreigners of all kinds. Use this guide to help distinguish the different kinds of sushi that are available.

In this article you will learn:
  • The history of sushi
  • The basic types and categories of sushi in Japan
  • Examples of uniquely Western sushi types
  • How Western sushi types relate to authentic sushi 

The First Sushi
The oldest form of sushi, dating back to 7th century Japan, is known as narezushi. This sushi began as salted fish that was fermented over many weeks. It was not until the 10th century that the fish was stuffed with rice before the fermentation process. This stuffed, fermented fish had a very pungent smell and is considered the ancestor of modern-day sushi, which can be defined as “vinegar rice served with other ingredients.”

Modern Japanese Sushi
Over time, vinegar was added to the narezushi to create an artificial “fermented” taste without the need for actual fermentation. This is when sushi rice – or vinegar rice – was born. This form of sushi did not have a sour smell, and the taste was much more widely liked.

Pretty soon, non-fermented sushi became the dominant form of the dish. By the early 19th century, different regions of Japan had developed their own types of sushi that blended the vinegar rice with sashimi, or raw fish, and modern-day sushi was born. Eventually, the following different kinds of sushi became distinguishable:

Uramaki sushi

Maki Sushi Makizushi is the most common form of sushi in the United States – the sushi roll. It includes vinegar rice and other ingredients like fish, cucumber or avocado, tightly rolled in nori – dried seaweed. Popular fillings include salmon, eel, tuna, yellowtail, shrimp and octopus. Types of maki sushi include the following:

  • Futomaki – This is the thick, fat roll of sushi that is usually cut into seven or eight pieces.
  • Hosomaki – This is a thin sushi roll that usually contains only one type of filling.
  • Uramaki – This is a sushi roll where the fillings wrapped with nori are on the inside and the rice is on the outside surrounding the nori.
  • Temaki – Also known as a “hand roll,” this is a cone-shaped sushi roll wrapped in nori, where one end is sealed off with the seaweed and the other end is loose with the ingredients spilling out.

Nigiri Sushi Nigirizushi is an oblong shape of vinegar rice, often formed in the hands with a bit of wasabi, topped with a slice of raw or cooked fish or vegetables. Popular toppings include salmon, tuna, squid or eel. When it is served with loose or slippery toppings like fish roe, a strip of nori is wrapped around the nigiri and it is called “gunkan.”

Chirashi sushi surrounded by small Japanese side dishes

Oshi SushiOshizushi hails from Osaka in south-central Japan. It is sushi that is pressed into a rectangular shape using a sushi press, also known as an “oshibako.” The toppings are laid at the bottom of the mold, and then covered in vinegar rice. The cover is pressed down on the ingredients to create a tight, rectangular block of sushi that can be cut into pieces.

Chirashi SushiChirashizushi translates to “scattered sushi” and is served in a sushi bowl. It consists of a bed of vinegar rice with the ingredients mixed on top. Bara sushi is a similar dish where the sushi rice and the ingredients are all mixed together. It is also known as “Gomoku” sushi.

Inari sushi Inarizushi is also known as “stuffed sushi.” It uses tofu instead of vinegar rice on the outside and usually contains the vinegar rice on the inside. The tofu “pouch” is deep fried to create “aburaage,” or fried tofu bags.

Onigiri – Also known as a “rice ball” or as “omusubi”, onigiri consists of sushi ingredients rolled up into a ball of regular steamed rice. The ball is sometimes wrapped in nori. It is debatable whether this is a type of “sushi.”

These are the most common types of sushi found in various regions of Japan. While each type of sushi has many different recipes and fillings, the pictures show that it is very easy to visually distinguish these basic kinds of sushi from each other.

Sushi is an Art Form, Make Sure You Have all the Right Sushi Supplies!

Western Sushi
Beginning during the Meiji Revolution in 1868, Japanese immigrants began to relocate to America, especially to Hawaii and California. With them they brought many elements of Japanese culture including the burgeoning demand for sushi. Pretty soon, several types of Western sushi developed that could be distinguished from authentic Japanese sushi. Western sushi became even more popular after World War II, when Japanese business people began to expand into the United States and Western sushi bars flourished. Some of the most popular types of Western sushi are the following:

A colorful makizushi that has just been rolledCalifornia roll The California roll is a fusion dish consisting of maki sushi filled with cucumber, avocado and real or imitation crab meat. It can be made in the futomaki style, but is usually rolled as uramaki with the rice on the outside. Often the outer layer is sprinkled with the roe – or caviar – of the flying fish or with toasted sesame seeds.

Caterpillar roll
A caterpillar roll is a sushi roll wrapped first in rice then in avocado for the outer layer. It is often covered in a teriyaki glaze and served in a manner so that it resembles its namesake.

Cone sushiThis type of sushi hails from Hawaii. A larger version of Japanese inarizushi, it contains bits of carrot and is sweeter than traditional inari sushi.

Rainbow roll – This daughter of the California roll has all of the ingredients of a typical California roll with sashimi on top.

Hawaiian roll
– The most popular sushi roll in Hawaii is filled with canned tuna, pickled gourd, processed white fish, egg nd shrimp powder. It may be topped with sashimi or roe.

rollThe Philadelphia roll is a maki roll filled with salmon, cream cheese and cucumbers. It may also contain onion or chives.

While all of these “fusion” sushi dishes were developed in the United States, many of them, especially the California roll, have become popular around the world, spreading to Canada, Europe and Latin America. However, they are rarely found in Japan.
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