Quicklist: Types of Sushi and Sushi Rolls
- Chirashi Sushi
- Gunkanmaki Sushi
- Kakinoha-zushi Sushi
- Makizushi Sushi
- Narezushi Sushi
- Nigiri Sushi
- Oshizushi Sushi
- Sasazushi Sushi
- Temaki Sushi
- Temari Sushi
- California Roll
- Dragon Roll
- Philly Roll
- Spicy Tuna Roll
- Spider Roll
- Tempura Roll
- Vegetarian Roll
What is Sushi?
Sushi in Japanese means “it is sour,” and in food preparation refers to the vinegar rice used as an essential ingredient in all sushi dishes. Other elements can include raw or cooked seafood, vegetables, and other toppings and condiments, such as wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger.
Hanaya Yohei, a Japanese food merchant is credited with inventing sushi as we know it. In 1810, he developed a hand-held fast food that featured most of the ingredients of modern-day sushi: vinegar rice, nori seaweed, seafood from Edo Bay and other available toppings. The nigirizushi (“hand-pressed sushi”) could be prepared quickly and consumed even faster.
Related: Types of Rice | Types of Food | Types of Condiments | How to Store Sushi | What Goes with Sushi | How to Wash Sushi Rice | Sushi vs. Sashimi | Sushi Rice Substitutes
Different Types of Sushi
Chirashi, in Japanese, means “scattered,” and refers to a bowl of vinegar rice topped with whatever the cook wants to add, which can include sashimi (raw fish). The traditional, centuries-old bara-chirashi was similar to a stew and probably contained cooked shrimp or saba (mackerel), as there was no refrigeration.
Gunkanmaki is a type of maki roll, which is wrapped or rolled sushi. The sushi roll includes a wide strip of nori (edible seaweed) wrapped around a ball of rice. When this is made, space is left at the top to fill in with other ingredients.
Gunkan, in Japanese. means “battleship,” and refers to the visual presentation. Some common ingredients to top gunkanmaki include squid, salmon roe, sea urchin roe and negitoro (tuna with green onion).
Kakinoha-zushi (Persimmon Leaf Sushi) originally comes from Nara prefecture, an important center of ancient Japanese culture. Nara is known for its pickling traditions (narazuke) and kakinoha’s ingredients come wrapped in salt-pickled persimmon leaves. The leaves are usually not eaten but serve as a preservative for what’s inside, which may include mackerel, salmon, yellowtail or bream, along with vinegar rice and seaweed.
Makizushi, also known as norimaki, is a type of sushi where the rice and other ingredients are rolled up in a sheet of nori (seaweed).
Maki is usually cut into six to eight pieces and within the makizushi style, there are some additional options.
Hosomaki is when there are thin, long rolls that have only one ingredient, such as a strip of tuna, cucumber, or pickled daikon radish.
Futomaki is a traditional version of makizushi, often vegetarian.
Temaki is like a Japanese taco with the ingredients spilling out over the sides of its seaweed cone.
Uramaki (“inside-out”) sushi features rice on the outside wrapped around nori seaweed and other ingredients. Also known as California Roll, inside-out sushi originated in North America in the 1970s with several chefs claiming they created the style.
The OG of sushi, Narezushi is an ancient form consisting of fermented fish preserved/pickled with salt and rice. Given that the dish is thousands of years old there are many variations of this dish in the historical record.
“It’s not totally clear when exactly narezushi began, but many people here consider this a family-style dish,”says chef Kazuyuki Ohashi, Lake Biwa Marriott Hotel, on CNN Travel. “Most families had their own recipes, passed down from generation to generation. Around Lake Biwa — the largest lake in Japan, just north of Kyoto — narezushi was a household staple and an important source of protein. In a time before refrigerators, families relied on rice and salt to ferment and preserve the fish — usually stored layered in barrels — in the hope of saving it for as long as possible.”
Narezushi is usually made with yellowtail, mackerel or ayu. The rice, as part of the preservation process packaging, was thrown away and not consumed.
Nigiri, also known as edomae sushi, features vinegar rice molded by hand into a ball with a slice of sashimi (raw fish) placed on top. Considered to be a fast-food preparation, Hanaya Yobei, a sushi peddler in 19th century Tokyo, is credited with coming up with the sushi style.
In 1810, Yobei operated a sushi stall in front of the Ryogoku Ekoin Buddhist temple, and to accommodate the large crowds of potential customers he devised a quicker way of making his time-consuming oshizushi. He came up with his own “modern” take, nigirisushi — fresh fish, seasoned and combined with vinegar rice on the spot.
Oshizushi (Pressed Sushi), or hakozushi (Boxed Sushi), features ingredients tightly packed into a box and layered with toppings. Originating more than 400 years ago in the Kansai region of Osaka, the packaging of the contents with fermented rice was another method of preservation.
Almost like a lasagna, oshizushi can consist of many layers which are then cut into smaller bite-size pieces. For example, one iteration of oshizushi, Iwakuni sushi, from Yamaguchi prefecture, contains “layers of lotus root, denbu (mashed and seasoned fish), fish and shrimp seasoned with vinegar, egg, and other ingredients stacked with thick layers of sweet vinegar sushi rice in a mold and pressed.”
Sasazushi, from the Hokuriku region, is sushi wrapped in bamboo. During the 16th century and the Sengoku period of constant civil war, Japanese warlord Uesugi Kenshin, of the Samurai Nagao clan, fed his army sushi wrapped in bamboo, or so the story goes.
In Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures, sasazushi is wrapped with bamboo grass and pressure is applied with weighted stones. The ingredients can include salmon, trout, dorado, sea bream, and in some regions, fried tofu. Local tastes also add lemon, ginger and Japanese pepper leaves, according to Food in Japan. In Nagano and Niigata prefectures, the vinegar rice is placed on bamboo leaves with additional ingredients and condiments.
Sashimi is usually thinly sliced raw seafood but it can also refer to other types of meat, or even yuba (tofu skin) and konnyaku (yam cakes). The word sashimi in Japanese means “cut body,” but is written in Kanji as “pierced body” due to restrictions around the exclusivity of the word “cut” during the medieval Muromachi era when Samurai ruled Japan. Originally, the raw fish was dipped into soy sauce, the rice and seaweed came later.
Temaki sushi, shaped like an ice cream cone or a taco, has its ingredients wrapped in nori seaweed. A 19th century fast food option that became popular in Edo (later Tokyo) Japan, the stuffing can include such items as pickled plum (umeboshi), shiso leaf paste, negitoro, and squid, along with seafood and rice.
Temara are bite-sized sushi balls of rice with seafood and vegetable topping. Lady Murasaki, in her 11th century novel, The Tales of Genji, wrote of guests at a party eating egg-shaped rice balls. This type of sushi is reminiscent of onigiri (literally, “love and comfort), a traditional Japanese comfort food popular at picnics and parties.
Types of Sushi Rolls
The California Roll looks like a typical sushi roll but inside out. The rice is on the outside with the sheet of nori is on the outside. The preparation often includes imitation crab meat, cucumber, avocado, and sometimes tobiko (flying fish roe).
Avocado, of course, is a North American addition to sushi that dates back to the 1960s and ’70s. Legend has it Los Angeles chef Ichiro Mashita substituted avocado for traditional toro (the fatty belly of tuna), which was harder to source, and the inside-out California Roll was born. The reason why his restaurant, Tokyo Kaikan, placed the seaweed inside the rice was because novice sushi diners were unaware that nori was edible. Other chefs, including L.A.’s Ken Seusa and Vancouver’s Hidekazu Tojo, working on something similar at at about the same time.
Dragon Roll uses shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado with rice on the outside of the roll and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Thin slices of avocado are on top of the roll which also includes tobiko, spicy mayo drizzle and unagi sauce.
The Philly Roll is a popular sushi option that you can find just about everywhere. It has items such as cream cheese, cucumbers, and salmon but may also contain ingredients like onion, avocado and sesame seeds.
According to Shogun Orlando, in 1983, Philadelphia mayor William J. Green III asked Madame Saito, owner of the first sushi bar in the city, “to create a signature sushi roll inspired by the city of Philadelphia. Most of Saito’s non-Japanese regular customers were Jewish, so she thought of lox and bagels. She combined salmon and Philadelphia’s own cream cheese brand, creating one of the world’s most well-known fusion sushi dishes — the Philadelphia roll.”
Spicy Tuna Roll
The Spicy Tuna Roll has nori and rice wrapped around raw tuna mixed with spicy mayonnaise.
A Spider Roll is deep-fried soft shell crab with avocado, cucumber, lettuce or daikon sprouts, roe, and spicy mayonnaise.
A Tempura Roll is similar to a California Roll in that it has rice wrapped around a sheet of nori. The sushi stuffing includes tempura fried shrimp and vegetables, such as cucumber and avocado.
Popular ingredients for a Vegetarian Roll include cucumber and avocado but anything other than seafood will work in the mix.
Where to Buy Sushi Online
The quality of the seafood is paramount for any raw dishes like sashimi, and even the tempura seafood rolls benefit from a fresher catch. Selecting fish can be seen as part of the process for any raw preparation, but ordering online from a reliable vendor can still produce great sushi.
Some seafood markets have priority shipping arrangements for wide-range deliveries within a day. A restaurant supply vendor, like Webstaurant, can be another good spot to check, but the prices and quantities aren’t geared for a family dinner.
Pickled, salted, or otherwise cured seafood is a traditional sushi ingredient, and it can be shipped and stored without degrading the quality any more than the curing process already did. For those who like fish roe on their sushi for a pop, tobiko roe is the standard for its color, shape, and size.
Grocery delivery services like InstaCart may have a decent selection of seafood markets, but the availability and quality will vary across regions and be influenced by the shopper’s eye for seafood. “Shipping and handling” can be more via these services than other stores, but it can potentially be your freshest seafood source without putting extra carbon in the air to overnight a cut of tuna.
Where to find sushi rice online
Rice has kept much of humanity fed for thousands of years. Large vendors such as Amazon, grocery stores of all sizes, and specialty online vendors for rice, sushi, or general Asian cuisine are all viable options for purchasing sushi rice online.
Sushi rice is normally one of the japonica varieties. The ideal rice grains are short, stubby, and sticky, which is perfect for forming cohesive balls, rolls, and other shapes.
Calrose rice is the most common type of japonica in American grocery stores. A longer grain and normal quality suffice for making sushi, but it’s not the ideal species of rice. Arborio is another common japonica that can work for sushi in a pinch, but the Italian grain has a heartier core.
Uruchimai has been the Japanese standard for some time. It might have a generic “sushi rice” label, but it’s not uncommon to see that same label on Calrose rice. If it’s a short-grain japonica sushi rice that doesn’t cost much more than white rice, it’s likely uruchimai.
Then there are the premium sushi rices like ubara, himetomone, and koshihikari. Each one is a unique variety that’s been cultivated for its appeal. The price of these premium rice species begins much higher than the common varieties.
Where to find sushi vegetables online
Vegetables either change or lose quality over time. Getting the right snap from the carrot or cucumber requires springy freshness, and an avocado can go from buttery to offensive in a day.
Try to avoid online vendors that take a long time for delivery or excessively handle ingredients with canning, vacuum sealing, or freezing. Not even a deep fry with tempura batter will hide a vegetable that’s past its prime.
Many grocery stores offer home delivery, and they have the most common sushi veggies. Services like InstaCart can pick up ingredients from a wide range of stores that don’t have their own delivery service, including your local farmer’s market.
Where to find other sushi ingredients online
Aside from the rice and major components, proper sushi will need a few more ingredients. Rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and dried seaweed are the bare essentials after rice to make the traditional flavor profiles, and they’re available at a wide variety of stores.
Pickled ginger and wasabi are also high on the list of needs, but heed a small warning. A lot of wasabi sold outside of Japan is actually horseradish that’s been flavored and colored, so make sure to order the real wasabi if you want authenticity.