Fish and Stuff

Maybe it’s about time I tried listing some common terms used when talking about sushi.

I’ll start off with some basic terms and add more vocabulary as it comes to me.


  • Nigirizushi – The archetypal sushi most people recognize as “sushi”, a piece of raw fish molded atop a small portion of vinegar rice, often with a small dab of wasabi inside.  The most famous style known today is Edomae Nigirizushi or “Nigirizushi made in front of Edo shore”
  • Makizushi – “Rolled sushi”, also known as “Norimakizushi”.  Cylindrically shaped sushi with seaweed and rice rolled around selected ingredients.  California Roll, Kappa-maki etc are included.
  • Temaki – “the hand-roll” that everyone talks about, a cone-shaped sushi that has the bulk filled with sushi rice and other ingredients like ikura, salmon or veggies.  Probably the most famous of temaki is the Spicy Tuna Hand Roll.
  • Inarizushi – sushi that is often just sushi rice packed inside a bean curd pocket, it may contain other vegetables and is generally sweet and moist, easily recognizable from its shimmering golden color with the rice not visible
  • Chirashizushi – Sushi that is similar to a kaisendon (seafood rice bowl) in that it is not hand-molded or rolled, but is a bed of sushi rice with a tad more sweet-sourness and often laden with other vegetables and topped with sushi ingredients according to the diner’s tastes or recipe.  It is usually eaten with chopsticks or a spoon.
  • Oshizushi – “Pressed sushi”.  Sushi that is made by combining ingredients not by hand, but by pressing them together using a special box-like device made of wood or plastic.  This is common in Western Japan, particularly the Kansai Region.  Includes “Battera”, Hako-zushi.  Oshizushi comes out relatively geometric and square compared to nigirizushi thanks to the pressing device.

Words Associated with Sushi and Raw Fish

  • Nyotaimori – “Body sushi”, particularly a woman’s (nearly) naked body used as a serving platform for sushi and other food.  “Nyotai” means “woman’s body”.  The opposite gender equivalent of Nyotaimori is “Nantaimori” or “Male Body Sushi”.  Both terms are commonly referred to as naked sushi and can be both for amusement, culinary enjoyment and performance art.  The Japanese characters for both types are 女体盛り (woman) and 男体盛り (man)
  • Shari – “Sushi rice”, one of the key ingredients, if not, the key ingredient which defines sushi.  It is made with steamed short-grain rice and combined with a sweet-sour vinegar mixture.
  • Wasabi – A spicy green vegetable similar to horseradish, can cause a unpleasant burning sensation if eaten in excess (or you snort some on a dare).  Wasabi acts as both a condiment as well as a disinfectant as it is known to counter bacteria growth.  Commonly, when eating sushi a small amount of minced wasabi is mixed with soy sauce, in which the diner then dips his or her sushi when eating.
  • Neta – “Neta” means ingredients, especially when talking about the fish used when making sushi.

Sushi preparation Tools

  • Makisu (巻き簾)– A bamboo mat used for rolling sushi, very useful when making makizushi.
  • Shamoji – A flat spoon or spatula-like tool used in fluffing and serving steamed rice.  Shamoji can be made of plastic or wood.  The proper use of a shamoji for freshly steamed rice is to “slice and fold”, meaning the cook does not scoop or shove the rice around, but rather gently slices into the rice vertically or at an angle so as not to pulverize the rice grains.  This action also helps cool the rice by letting in vents of air.