Sushi is a broad term used to describe Japanese rice and raw fish. In reality sushi is just the vinegared rice and sashimi is the raw fish either added as a filling or a topping.
To the novice it seems almost frightening and an unexplored territory. But the countless sushi bars and restaurants popping up in streets and alleys in most cities around the world are testimony to the fact that sushi is something that has to be tried to be believed.
To begin, rice in a sweet wine vinegar dressing forms the base of almost all types of sushi. The other constants are the soy sauce or shoyu, gari or pickled ginger and wasabi or horse radish paste. All types of sushi can be dipped in shoyu but only sashimi must be eaten with wasabi added to the shoyu.
The most common type of sushi is the Makizushi. In simple words sushi rolls that are cut into bite sized pieces and eaten with fingers or chopsticks. Typically they are layers of nori or seaweed, rice and various fillings that can either be raw or partially cooked fish, vegetables or both. They are sometimes topped with fish roe or tuna bits. Sometimes Makizushi is also wrapped with omelets, parsley, and cucumber or soy paper to add variety to a theme. This variety is called a makimono.
Makizushi can be further divided into Hosamaki which is narrower than other rolls and contains primarily any one ingredient; the Futomaki or happy roll is thicker with two or three fillings chosen to complement each other perfectly. These rolls are eaten uncut in some Japanese festivals. The Kappamaki is literally a cucumber roll named after a legendary water imp and is eaten between sushi bites to clear the palette. The Tekkamaki, Negitoromaki and Tsunamayomaki are all typically thick rolls like the Hosamaki but filled with fresh salmon or tuna, tuna and scallion or tuna and mayonnaise in that order.
The Temaki differs from other rolls in this category in its shape which is conical and must be eaten as soon as it is made to allow for the crispness of the nori. Uramaki is a sushi roll with the rice on the outside and the nori on the inside. Uramaki is much like the Californian Roll as western ingredients are added as a filling.
The other well appreciated sushi is the delicately balanced rice oblong with a raw fish topping called the Nigirizushi. This has managed to remain most original in its look, texture and flavor than other sushi types. The rice has a small amount of wasabi in it and the fish draped on top could be anything from salmon to tuna to yellowtail to name just a few. Some Nigirizushi are bound with thin strips of nori, omelets, octopus or squid among others. The two predominant types in this sushi corner are the Temarizushi and the Gunkanmaki. Both differ in shape and filling but retain the basic taste of a Nigirizushi.
Inarizushi is a stuffed and deep fried sushi that contains mainly fried tofu and rice. The variations to this theme are taken from the shape and thin omelet pouches peculiar to each region. They are not the same as the popular Hawaiian sushi called Inarimaki even if they both contain tofu.
Saszushi is a square shaped sushi, a favorite in the Kansai region of Japan and a delicacy in Osaka. In this the topping is at the bottom and the rice is at the top. The Chirashizushi or Nama-chirashi is a distinguished sushi where the toppings are layered over a bed of rice. Most often the ingredients are the chefs’ choice and could be raw or cooked as per the regional style. Narezushi on the other hand is more a type of sashimi as the cleaned and gutted fish is cut and pressed under a pickling stone to get rid of the water. Lots of salt is added for fermentation and the fish is generally edible after six months.
Finally the last type of sushi is the westernized sushi that has been adapted in more ways than one for local tastes. A classic example is the Californian roll.