Know Your Sushi: Your Guide to Japanese Sushi Styles

Sushi is delicious, you know it, I know it, everybody and their dog knows it. But do you know the differences between them? Can you tell your futomaki from your nigiri? No? Not to worry, sit back grab a maki roll and let’s get started.

Sushi is always prepared with cooked rice, if there’s no rice, it’s not sushi! The rice is mixed with a combination of rice vinegar, oil, sugar and salt. Accompanying ingredients differ, but common ingredients include seafood and vegetables. Servings often come with wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger.

Sushi styles and presentation are extremely varied, so here’s our basic guide to Japanese sushi:

Maki Sushi

Meaning “rolled sushi”, maki sushi is generally rolled with, or wrapped in, nori (seaweed) with the help of a bamboo mat and sliced.

Flickr | Dennis van Zuijlekom

Depending on the thickness of the roll and the presentation, these rolled sushi are called:

  • Hosomaki – Thin rolls with nori on the outside
  • Chumaki – Medium sized rolls with nori on the outside
  • Futomaki – Large rolls with nori on the outside
Flickr | Janet Hudson
  • Uramaki – Rolls with nori on the inside, rice on the outside
Flickr | Stuart Webster
  • Temaki – Long cone-shaped hand rolls
Flickr | Norris Wong

Nigiri Sushi

Flickr | jh_tan84

Nigiri (hand pressed) is prepared by laying a topping, usually seafood, over hand pressed/molded sushi rice. A thin layer of wasabi is often spread between the rice and topping. Some nigiri have a thin strip of nori, wrapped from top to bottom, holding a topping in place on top of the rice.

A variation on the hand pressed sushi is hako sushi, which is pressed with a wooden mold and sliced into squares or rectangles.

Inari Sushi

Flickr | Janet Hudson

Made by filling a thin pouch of fried tofu (aburaage) with sushi rice.

Chirashi Sushi

Flickr | Christina Murillo

Chirashi sushi or scattered sushi, is an assortment of ingredients laid out over a bowl of rice. With no need for shaping, pressing or molding and few rules dictating what can and can’t go into a bowl of chirashi makes it a popular and convenient dish to be made at home with leftovers.