What Is Sushi: The Not-So-Raw Truth

The Story Behind a Favorite Japanese Delicacy

Sushi Rolls
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Sushi is popular around the world, but that doesn't mean everyone understands what this dish technically is. Sushi isn't the same thing as raw fish, for instance. Rather, raw fish, known as sashimi in Japanese, is the most popular ingredient in sushi.

It may surprise Westerners to find out that the term sushi actually refers to foods that use a type of rice seasoned with vinegar, not just the rolled rice and seaweed variety we see at most establishments in the United States.

If you're traveling to Japan or just want to learn more about the cuisine, the best thing to do is to read up on the different types sushi and prepare your taste buds for some true Japanese delicacies.

The Different Types of Sushi

There are several types of sushi, making it an appealing food to people with a wide range of tastes. One form of sushi, nigiri-zushi, are hand-pressed mounds of rice with a dab of wasabi and parts of various ingredients on top. Popular nigiri-zushi include maguro (tuna), toro (belly of tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), and ebi (shrimp).

Maki-zushi are sushi rolls wrapped by nori seaweed, such as tekkamaki (tuna rolls) and kappamaki (cucumber rolls). These rolls are also called norimaki. Additionally, inari-zushi are deep-fried tofu pouches stuffed with sushi rice which are brown and oval-shaped. and chirashi-zushi are sushi served on a plate or bowl with different ingredients on top of rice.

The key seasonings used in sushi are soy sauce and wasabi (Japanese horseradish). Soy sauce is used as a dipping sauce, and wasabi is put in nigiri-zushi and may also be mixed with soy sauce for dipping. Also, pickled ginger called gari is commonly served with sushi while green tea (agari) is the best drink to pair with sushi.

Where to Get Authentic Japanese Sushi

In traditional sushi restaurants in Japan, sushi can be expensive depending on what you eat, but these restaurants can be found all over the country. Here, you can usually order a set of sushi with a fixed price, which comes in handy for group outings, or you can order your favorite sushi pieces as you eat your meal.

For reasonably priced sushi, there are places called kaiten-zushi, where the sushi plates circle around the eating area on a conveyor belt, and these restaurants are also found everywhere in Japan. When you go to such a restaurant, you wait until your favorite sushi comes near you, and then pick up the plate from the moving table. If your favorites aren't available on the moving table, you can also order them from the kitchen. Prices for this inexpensive kind of sushi vary.

Once considered exotic outside of Japan, sushi restaurants can now even be found in small American towns. If you'll likely never visit Japan, the most authentic sushi in America can usually be located in coastal cities with large Japanese populations such as Los Angeles, Seattle, or Honolulu.