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16 Confusing Sushi Terms, Decoded

16 Confusing Sushi Terms, Decoded


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Feel like a fish out of water at the sushi counter? We’re here to help

A meal at a sushi restaurant can be one of the most exciting culinary experiences you’ll ever have. It can also be one of the most intimidating if you’re not quite sure what all the words on the menu mean. But have no fear: We’ve gathered together the 15 most common sushi terms, from varieties of sushi to its individual components and condiments, so the next time someone asks you what the difference between maki and nigiri is, you’ll be able to answer them like a pro.

16 Confusing Sushi Terms, Decoded

A meal at a sushi restaurant can be one of the most exciting culinary experiences you’ll ever have. But have no fear: We’ve gathered together the 15 most common sushi terms, from varieties of sushi to its individual components and condiments, so the next time someone asks you what the difference between maki and nigiri is, you’ll be able to answer them like a pro.

Chirashi

Chirashi is a bowl of sushi rice topped with a variety of raw fish and vegetables or garnishes. The term translates to “scattered sushi.”

Futomaki

These are thick sushi rolls that are generally two or more inches across and are usually vegetarian. Sliced relatively thinly, they often have three or more ingredients, chosen for their complementary colors and flavors.

Gari

The thin slices of pickled ginger that are served alongside sushi.

Gunkan-maki

This style of sushi is rolled so that the seaweed and rice form an oval “container” for a soft topping, like sea urchin, quail egg, or fish roe.

Maki-Zushi

Also called sushi rolls, maki is the style of sushi that’s rolled up with rice and seaweed around a filling, then sliced into individual pieces. The rice can be either on the inside or the outside of the seaweed.

Neta

Neta is what the piece of fish that tops the sushi is called.

Nigiri-Zushi

As opposed to sushi rolls (maki), nigiri is the style of sushi with an oblong piece of hand-pressed rice topped with neta, or raw fish. Many sushi chefs will place a bit of wasabi between the rice and the topping.

Nori

Nori is the name given to the sheets of dried seaweed used to make maki.

Omakase

The sushi bar equivalent of a tasting menu, this generally pricey endeavor puts you entirely in the sushi chef’s hands. While your meal could just be a selection of nigiri, it can also incorporate maki and cooked items.

Oshi-Zushi

Oshi is made by pressing rice into a special box, adding the topping, then pressing down on it with the top of the box. The resulting sushi is clean and compact, and is usually sliced into squares or rectangles.

Sashimi

The Japanese word for slices of raw fish. If you order sashimi, don’t expect to receive any rice.

Shoyu

Japanese soy sauce, usually served alongside sushi. Always dip nigiri fish-side down into the shoyu, so the rice doesn’t absorb it all and fall apart.

Sushi

The word sushi actually only refers to the seasoned rice, in the strictest sense, but it’s conversationally an umbrella term for maki and nigiri. When you see the word “sushi” on a menu with neta options below, however, they’re referring to nigiri; maki are generally in a section of their own.

Temaki-Zushi

Also called hand rolls, these are hand-rolled cones of seaweed filled with sushi rice, fish, and usually vegetables.

Tempura

Seafood or vegetables that have been dipped in a light batter and deep-fried. While this isn’t a specific sushi term per se, many sushi restaurants also sell tempura, and some American-style rolls contain shrimp tempura.

Wasabi

Japanese horseradish; the little lump of green stuff served next to the ginger. The vast, vast majority of wasabi you’ll encounter isn’t real wasabi, however; it’s generally a mixture of reconstituted American horseradish and mustard powder with green food coloring.


High Life Decoded: 15 Common Sushi Myths, Debunked

Sushi has gone through a fascinating evolution in this country, from exotic high-end import to ubiquitous staple. Along the way, the audience has become more polarized than ever: Snobs won’t go near the stuff unless it comes from the most hallowed temples of sushi-master zendom, while the downmarket version—sold in plastic containers at supermarkets—is now basically a faddish health food, as pedestrian as wraps and smoothies.

But what do we really know about sushi? Despite its popularity, the Japanese delicacy remains one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the U.S.—a minefield of misinformation littered with improperly labeled fish and supersize “Kamikaze” rolls. From assumptions about what sushi is most “authentic” to the way we slather our nigiri with wasabi and soy sauce, most of us have the raw fish game all wrong. To sort out the facts from the myths, we tracked down an pro who could set us on the path to sushi wisdom.

The Expert:

Trevor Corson, the author of The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, traveled to Japan for the first time when he was 16 on scholarship for a summer home-stay program. When he tried sushi in 1986 Washington, D.C. in preparation for his trip, he remembers thinking, “Now here’s a cuisine that is truly repulsive and I never want to eat this again.” After trying sushi at a neighborhood restaurant in Japan with his host family, he changed his tune and realized he had a lot to learn—and a lot of new fish to try.

Since his humble discovery as a teen, Corson spent three years living in Japan, worked as a commercial fisherman, and penned the pop-science bestseller The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean. He also regularly hosts educational “historical sushi dinners” in New York City (for more info visit his website). Through his own travels and his commitment to studying sushi in both its traditional and modern iterations, Corson is helping to educate others on how to better understand and enjoy sushi.


High Life Decoded: 15 Common Sushi Myths, Debunked

Sushi has gone through a fascinating evolution in this country, from exotic high-end import to ubiquitous staple. Along the way, the audience has become more polarized than ever: Snobs won’t go near the stuff unless it comes from the most hallowed temples of sushi-master zendom, while the downmarket version—sold in plastic containers at supermarkets—is now basically a faddish health food, as pedestrian as wraps and smoothies.

But what do we really know about sushi? Despite its popularity, the Japanese delicacy remains one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the U.S.—a minefield of misinformation littered with improperly labeled fish and supersize “Kamikaze” rolls. From assumptions about what sushi is most “authentic” to the way we slather our nigiri with wasabi and soy sauce, most of us have the raw fish game all wrong. To sort out the facts from the myths, we tracked down an pro who could set us on the path to sushi wisdom.

The Expert:

Trevor Corson, the author of The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, traveled to Japan for the first time when he was 16 on scholarship for a summer home-stay program. When he tried sushi in 1986 Washington, D.C. in preparation for his trip, he remembers thinking, “Now here’s a cuisine that is truly repulsive and I never want to eat this again.” After trying sushi at a neighborhood restaurant in Japan with his host family, he changed his tune and realized he had a lot to learn—and a lot of new fish to try.

Since his humble discovery as a teen, Corson spent three years living in Japan, worked as a commercial fisherman, and penned the pop-science bestseller The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean. He also regularly hosts educational “historical sushi dinners” in New York City (for more info visit his website). Through his own travels and his commitment to studying sushi in both its traditional and modern iterations, Corson is helping to educate others on how to better understand and enjoy sushi.


High Life Decoded: 15 Common Sushi Myths, Debunked

Sushi has gone through a fascinating evolution in this country, from exotic high-end import to ubiquitous staple. Along the way, the audience has become more polarized than ever: Snobs won’t go near the stuff unless it comes from the most hallowed temples of sushi-master zendom, while the downmarket version—sold in plastic containers at supermarkets—is now basically a faddish health food, as pedestrian as wraps and smoothies.

But what do we really know about sushi? Despite its popularity, the Japanese delicacy remains one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the U.S.—a minefield of misinformation littered with improperly labeled fish and supersize “Kamikaze” rolls. From assumptions about what sushi is most “authentic” to the way we slather our nigiri with wasabi and soy sauce, most of us have the raw fish game all wrong. To sort out the facts from the myths, we tracked down an pro who could set us on the path to sushi wisdom.

The Expert:

Trevor Corson, the author of The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, traveled to Japan for the first time when he was 16 on scholarship for a summer home-stay program. When he tried sushi in 1986 Washington, D.C. in preparation for his trip, he remembers thinking, “Now here’s a cuisine that is truly repulsive and I never want to eat this again.” After trying sushi at a neighborhood restaurant in Japan with his host family, he changed his tune and realized he had a lot to learn—and a lot of new fish to try.

Since his humble discovery as a teen, Corson spent three years living in Japan, worked as a commercial fisherman, and penned the pop-science bestseller The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean. He also regularly hosts educational “historical sushi dinners” in New York City (for more info visit his website). Through his own travels and his commitment to studying sushi in both its traditional and modern iterations, Corson is helping to educate others on how to better understand and enjoy sushi.


High Life Decoded: 15 Common Sushi Myths, Debunked

Sushi has gone through a fascinating evolution in this country, from exotic high-end import to ubiquitous staple. Along the way, the audience has become more polarized than ever: Snobs won’t go near the stuff unless it comes from the most hallowed temples of sushi-master zendom, while the downmarket version—sold in plastic containers at supermarkets—is now basically a faddish health food, as pedestrian as wraps and smoothies.

But what do we really know about sushi? Despite its popularity, the Japanese delicacy remains one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the U.S.—a minefield of misinformation littered with improperly labeled fish and supersize “Kamikaze” rolls. From assumptions about what sushi is most “authentic” to the way we slather our nigiri with wasabi and soy sauce, most of us have the raw fish game all wrong. To sort out the facts from the myths, we tracked down an pro who could set us on the path to sushi wisdom.

The Expert:

Trevor Corson, the author of The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, traveled to Japan for the first time when he was 16 on scholarship for a summer home-stay program. When he tried sushi in 1986 Washington, D.C. in preparation for his trip, he remembers thinking, “Now here’s a cuisine that is truly repulsive and I never want to eat this again.” After trying sushi at a neighborhood restaurant in Japan with his host family, he changed his tune and realized he had a lot to learn—and a lot of new fish to try.

Since his humble discovery as a teen, Corson spent three years living in Japan, worked as a commercial fisherman, and penned the pop-science bestseller The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean. He also regularly hosts educational “historical sushi dinners” in New York City (for more info visit his website). Through his own travels and his commitment to studying sushi in both its traditional and modern iterations, Corson is helping to educate others on how to better understand and enjoy sushi.


High Life Decoded: 15 Common Sushi Myths, Debunked

Sushi has gone through a fascinating evolution in this country, from exotic high-end import to ubiquitous staple. Along the way, the audience has become more polarized than ever: Snobs won’t go near the stuff unless it comes from the most hallowed temples of sushi-master zendom, while the downmarket version—sold in plastic containers at supermarkets—is now basically a faddish health food, as pedestrian as wraps and smoothies.

But what do we really know about sushi? Despite its popularity, the Japanese delicacy remains one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the U.S.—a minefield of misinformation littered with improperly labeled fish and supersize “Kamikaze” rolls. From assumptions about what sushi is most “authentic” to the way we slather our nigiri with wasabi and soy sauce, most of us have the raw fish game all wrong. To sort out the facts from the myths, we tracked down an pro who could set us on the path to sushi wisdom.

The Expert:

Trevor Corson, the author of The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, traveled to Japan for the first time when he was 16 on scholarship for a summer home-stay program. When he tried sushi in 1986 Washington, D.C. in preparation for his trip, he remembers thinking, “Now here’s a cuisine that is truly repulsive and I never want to eat this again.” After trying sushi at a neighborhood restaurant in Japan with his host family, he changed his tune and realized he had a lot to learn—and a lot of new fish to try.

Since his humble discovery as a teen, Corson spent three years living in Japan, worked as a commercial fisherman, and penned the pop-science bestseller The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean. He also regularly hosts educational “historical sushi dinners” in New York City (for more info visit his website). Through his own travels and his commitment to studying sushi in both its traditional and modern iterations, Corson is helping to educate others on how to better understand and enjoy sushi.


High Life Decoded: 15 Common Sushi Myths, Debunked

Sushi has gone through a fascinating evolution in this country, from exotic high-end import to ubiquitous staple. Along the way, the audience has become more polarized than ever: Snobs won’t go near the stuff unless it comes from the most hallowed temples of sushi-master zendom, while the downmarket version—sold in plastic containers at supermarkets—is now basically a faddish health food, as pedestrian as wraps and smoothies.

But what do we really know about sushi? Despite its popularity, the Japanese delicacy remains one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the U.S.—a minefield of misinformation littered with improperly labeled fish and supersize “Kamikaze” rolls. From assumptions about what sushi is most “authentic” to the way we slather our nigiri with wasabi and soy sauce, most of us have the raw fish game all wrong. To sort out the facts from the myths, we tracked down an pro who could set us on the path to sushi wisdom.

The Expert:

Trevor Corson, the author of The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, traveled to Japan for the first time when he was 16 on scholarship for a summer home-stay program. When he tried sushi in 1986 Washington, D.C. in preparation for his trip, he remembers thinking, “Now here’s a cuisine that is truly repulsive and I never want to eat this again.” After trying sushi at a neighborhood restaurant in Japan with his host family, he changed his tune and realized he had a lot to learn—and a lot of new fish to try.

Since his humble discovery as a teen, Corson spent three years living in Japan, worked as a commercial fisherman, and penned the pop-science bestseller The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean. He also regularly hosts educational “historical sushi dinners” in New York City (for more info visit his website). Through his own travels and his commitment to studying sushi in both its traditional and modern iterations, Corson is helping to educate others on how to better understand and enjoy sushi.


High Life Decoded: 15 Common Sushi Myths, Debunked

Sushi has gone through a fascinating evolution in this country, from exotic high-end import to ubiquitous staple. Along the way, the audience has become more polarized than ever: Snobs won’t go near the stuff unless it comes from the most hallowed temples of sushi-master zendom, while the downmarket version—sold in plastic containers at supermarkets—is now basically a faddish health food, as pedestrian as wraps and smoothies.

But what do we really know about sushi? Despite its popularity, the Japanese delicacy remains one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the U.S.—a minefield of misinformation littered with improperly labeled fish and supersize “Kamikaze” rolls. From assumptions about what sushi is most “authentic” to the way we slather our nigiri with wasabi and soy sauce, most of us have the raw fish game all wrong. To sort out the facts from the myths, we tracked down an pro who could set us on the path to sushi wisdom.

The Expert:

Trevor Corson, the author of The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, traveled to Japan for the first time when he was 16 on scholarship for a summer home-stay program. When he tried sushi in 1986 Washington, D.C. in preparation for his trip, he remembers thinking, “Now here’s a cuisine that is truly repulsive and I never want to eat this again.” After trying sushi at a neighborhood restaurant in Japan with his host family, he changed his tune and realized he had a lot to learn—and a lot of new fish to try.

Since his humble discovery as a teen, Corson spent three years living in Japan, worked as a commercial fisherman, and penned the pop-science bestseller The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean. He also regularly hosts educational “historical sushi dinners” in New York City (for more info visit his website). Through his own travels and his commitment to studying sushi in both its traditional and modern iterations, Corson is helping to educate others on how to better understand and enjoy sushi.


High Life Decoded: 15 Common Sushi Myths, Debunked

Sushi has gone through a fascinating evolution in this country, from exotic high-end import to ubiquitous staple. Along the way, the audience has become more polarized than ever: Snobs won’t go near the stuff unless it comes from the most hallowed temples of sushi-master zendom, while the downmarket version—sold in plastic containers at supermarkets—is now basically a faddish health food, as pedestrian as wraps and smoothies.

But what do we really know about sushi? Despite its popularity, the Japanese delicacy remains one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the U.S.—a minefield of misinformation littered with improperly labeled fish and supersize “Kamikaze” rolls. From assumptions about what sushi is most “authentic” to the way we slather our nigiri with wasabi and soy sauce, most of us have the raw fish game all wrong. To sort out the facts from the myths, we tracked down an pro who could set us on the path to sushi wisdom.

The Expert:

Trevor Corson, the author of The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, traveled to Japan for the first time when he was 16 on scholarship for a summer home-stay program. When he tried sushi in 1986 Washington, D.C. in preparation for his trip, he remembers thinking, “Now here’s a cuisine that is truly repulsive and I never want to eat this again.” After trying sushi at a neighborhood restaurant in Japan with his host family, he changed his tune and realized he had a lot to learn—and a lot of new fish to try.

Since his humble discovery as a teen, Corson spent three years living in Japan, worked as a commercial fisherman, and penned the pop-science bestseller The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean. He also regularly hosts educational “historical sushi dinners” in New York City (for more info visit his website). Through his own travels and his commitment to studying sushi in both its traditional and modern iterations, Corson is helping to educate others on how to better understand and enjoy sushi.


High Life Decoded: 15 Common Sushi Myths, Debunked

Sushi has gone through a fascinating evolution in this country, from exotic high-end import to ubiquitous staple. Along the way, the audience has become more polarized than ever: Snobs won’t go near the stuff unless it comes from the most hallowed temples of sushi-master zendom, while the downmarket version—sold in plastic containers at supermarkets—is now basically a faddish health food, as pedestrian as wraps and smoothies.

But what do we really know about sushi? Despite its popularity, the Japanese delicacy remains one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the U.S.—a minefield of misinformation littered with improperly labeled fish and supersize “Kamikaze” rolls. From assumptions about what sushi is most “authentic” to the way we slather our nigiri with wasabi and soy sauce, most of us have the raw fish game all wrong. To sort out the facts from the myths, we tracked down an pro who could set us on the path to sushi wisdom.

The Expert:

Trevor Corson, the author of The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, traveled to Japan for the first time when he was 16 on scholarship for a summer home-stay program. When he tried sushi in 1986 Washington, D.C. in preparation for his trip, he remembers thinking, “Now here’s a cuisine that is truly repulsive and I never want to eat this again.” After trying sushi at a neighborhood restaurant in Japan with his host family, he changed his tune and realized he had a lot to learn—and a lot of new fish to try.

Since his humble discovery as a teen, Corson spent three years living in Japan, worked as a commercial fisherman, and penned the pop-science bestseller The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean. He also regularly hosts educational “historical sushi dinners” in New York City (for more info visit his website). Through his own travels and his commitment to studying sushi in both its traditional and modern iterations, Corson is helping to educate others on how to better understand and enjoy sushi.


High Life Decoded: 15 Common Sushi Myths, Debunked

Sushi has gone through a fascinating evolution in this country, from exotic high-end import to ubiquitous staple. Along the way, the audience has become more polarized than ever: Snobs won’t go near the stuff unless it comes from the most hallowed temples of sushi-master zendom, while the downmarket version—sold in plastic containers at supermarkets—is now basically a faddish health food, as pedestrian as wraps and smoothies.

But what do we really know about sushi? Despite its popularity, the Japanese delicacy remains one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the U.S.—a minefield of misinformation littered with improperly labeled fish and supersize “Kamikaze” rolls. From assumptions about what sushi is most “authentic” to the way we slather our nigiri with wasabi and soy sauce, most of us have the raw fish game all wrong. To sort out the facts from the myths, we tracked down an pro who could set us on the path to sushi wisdom.

The Expert:

Trevor Corson, the author of The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, traveled to Japan for the first time when he was 16 on scholarship for a summer home-stay program. When he tried sushi in 1986 Washington, D.C. in preparation for his trip, he remembers thinking, “Now here’s a cuisine that is truly repulsive and I never want to eat this again.” After trying sushi at a neighborhood restaurant in Japan with his host family, he changed his tune and realized he had a lot to learn—and a lot of new fish to try.

Since his humble discovery as a teen, Corson spent three years living in Japan, worked as a commercial fisherman, and penned the pop-science bestseller The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean. He also regularly hosts educational “historical sushi dinners” in New York City (for more info visit his website). Through his own travels and his commitment to studying sushi in both its traditional and modern iterations, Corson is helping to educate others on how to better understand and enjoy sushi.


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