Do you often feel a little confused and intimidated when you go to a sushi and sashimi joint because you’re not sure what everything means? Here’s a handy guide to figuring out popluar sushi terms from A to Z (or almost!)
A is for AHI
Ahi is also known as big-eye or yellowfin tuna (キハダマグロ). It is usually fattier than Maguro (bluefin tuna) and is often confused with Hamachi (yellowtail) which is a different species. It is also used for tuna tataki and is frequently the type of tuna served seared.
B is for BONITO (鰹節)
Bonito, also known as skipjack tuna, is normally smoked and dried into a popular Japanese seasoning called katsuo-bushi (the Japanese word for bonito is katsuo). Dried bonito flakes are often used in sushi bars as a garnish atop mackerel sushi, spinach and other dishes.
C is for CHIRASHIZUSHI (ちらし寿司)
Commonly mistaken for just “sashimi on rice”, Chirashi is actually a bowl of sushi rice topped with assorted raw fish and vegetables. In addition to sashimi selections, toppings can include ikura (イクラ, salmon roe), kanpyo (干瓢, calabash), nori (海苔, seaweed), shiitaki (椎茸) and tamago (卵焼き, grilled egg).
D is for DAIKON (大根)
A large, long white radish that is usually shredded and served edible garnish with sashimi. It is also often freshly grated, served and mixed with ponzu (ポン酢) sauce.
E is for ENGAWA (えんがわ)
Commonly referred to as “fluke fin”, it is actually a portion of flesh found near the tail end of the fish, usually Halibut. Its soft, feathery texture and higher fat content makes it popular with connoisseurs.
F is for FUSION
Thanks to sushi’s popularity worldwide, unique east-meets-west fusion style sushi such as foie gras, avocado and California rolls were created to please palates worldwide.
G is for GARI (ガリ)
Served as a palate-cleaner with both sushi and sashimi meant to be eaten between different types of fish, this thinly-sliced ginger root is typically pickled in sweet vinegar. It can be pink or beige, depending on coloring. The ginger root itself is called shoga while gari is the sound made when the ginger is chewed.
H is for HOKKIGAI (北寄貝)
These sweet, red and white arctic surf clams are farmed in northern Japan and common to the Arctic and the Northeast coast of the U.S. It has a mild ocean aroma and the flash is soft and chewy.
I is for INARI-ZUSHI (稲荷寿司)
This sushi made by stuffing a fried bean curd pocket with sushi rice and vegetables or other ingredients. The pocket itself is called aburage (油揚げ; deep fried tofu skin). It has a slightly spongy texture and is usually a bit sweet.
K is for KAITEN ZUSHI (回転寿司)
Also called sushi-go-round, kaiten zushi, is conveyor-belt sushi restaurant. Plates of food are placed on a conveyor belt which travels around a long, oval-shaped sushi bar. You can take what you like from the conveyor belt or order from the chef. Plates are color-coded by price, and include sushi, salads, soup, noodles and other dishes.
L is for LIVE SHRIMP
Ikizukuri (生き作り) or live sushi and sashimi are a delicacy in Japan, particularly live shrimp. The the shrimp taken from a tank, peeled, immediately handed to the customer and squirm as they are chewed alive.
M is for MIRUGAI (海松貝)
This giant, long-necked clam or horseneck clam is also known as a geoduck clam. The neck has a mild, sweet taste and has the crisp, crunchy texture of a cucumber while its body is tender and has an enjoyable shellfish flavour.
N is for NARUTO (なると)
No, we’re not talking about the manga or its eponymous ninja hero. A naruto is actually a maki zushi (巻き寿司, rolled sushi) wrapped in cucumber instead of seaweed. The term could also be used to refer to a type of cured fish cake with a pink or red spiral pattern.
O is for OSHI-ZUSHI (押し寿司)
Osaka-style sushi is made with squares of pressed rice topped with vinegared or cooked fish. The different styles include battera (バッテラ; pressed mackerel sushi, placed in a box and cut into squares or rectangles), bozushi (棒寿司; pressed sushi sticks), hazushi (葉寿司; sushi wrapped with plant leaves) and hakozushi (箱寿司; box-pressed sushi).
P is for PUFFER FISH
The infamous puffer fish, is so deadly that in Japan, only licensed fugu (河豚) chefs are allowed to prepare the fish. While the fish does not have an outstanding flavour, most people choose it for the novelty of a “near-death adventure.”
Q is for QUAIL EGG
Uzura no tamago (うずらの卵) or raw quail egg yolks are frequently served in gunkan-maki (軍艦巻; warship roll) atop crunchy tobiko (飛子; flying fish roe). The creamy egg yolk with the crunchy fish roe creates a delightful contrast of taste and texture.
R is for ROE
A popular topping for gunkan-maki, fish roe comes in a variety of types. The most popular being ikura (イクラ; salmon roe), mentaiko (明太子; spicy cod roe) and tobiko. Other types of roe includes kazunoko (数の子; herring roe), masago (まさご; smelt roe) and tarako (鱈子; Alaska pollack roe).
S is for SHISO (紫蘇)
Perilla leaves come in both green- and purple-leafed varieties, with red shiso being just slightly less spicy than green shiso, plus an additional anise flavour. Green shiso is often used to decorate sushi plates and to wrap raw fish while the red shiso is often used to colour umeboshi (梅干; pickled plums) and shoga.
T is for TORO (とろ)
The most tender part of a Bluefin tuna comes from its the fatty belly. Toro has a rich, buttery flavour. It is rosy in colour and can be ordered as chutoro (中とろ; medium fat) and otoro (大とろ; high fat) — similar to choosing the level of fat marbling you want on your steak.
U is for URAMAKI (裏巻き)
An American creation, this contemporary reverse roll or “inside out roll” is also known as California roll (カリフォルニア巻き), where the rice is on the outside of a sheet of nori (dried seaweed). It usually has an outer layer of tobiko or sesame seeds.
W is for WAKAME (ワカメ)
Known as lobe-leaf seaweed, it has a subtly sweet flavour and its long, wavy strands are served as a tsukemono (漬物, vinegared salad) at sushi bars as well as in miso soup.
Y is for YELLOWTAIL
Yellowtail is a fish that is called different names depending on its age ー inada (鰍, very young), hamachi (魬, young) and buri (鰤, adult). Also known as the Japanese amberjack, the most popular serve is hamachi. It is fatty and is often mistakenly called a “Yellowtail tuna”.
Z is for ZUSHI (寿司)
The phonetically correct way to say “sushi”.