Differences between Nigiri, Sushi, Maki, and Sashimi

Differences between nigiri, sushi, maki and sashimi

The first few times we go to a Japanese restaurant we are probably overwhelmed by the number of names given to the dishes we usually know under the name of sushi. Besides sushi, maki, nigiri, or sashimi, are some of the dishes that can cause confusion. Which ones have rice? Which ones have raw fish? Do they all have nori seaweed? Do they have it on the inside or on the outside?

In this article, we will show you quickly and easily, the differences between sushi, maki, nigiri, and sashimi. We will see that some of them have rice and others do not. You will realize that they don’t have to have raw fish, or which ones are prepared with or without nori seaweed.

Given these doubts, and if we are not regular consumers of Japanese dishes, it is convenient to differentiate to clarify which pieces of sushi we are going to order.

What is Sushi?

What is Sushi

Sushi is actually a way of preparing rice and does not refer to the different ingredients that may accompany it.

Internationally, the name sushi is used to refer to the most common varieties of rice dishes, such as maki or nigiri.

How is Sushi prepared?

The optimum cooking point should be that it remains in a caked form. It is then mixed with rice vinegar, sugar and salt.

The proportions are; for a cup of rice 2 spoonfuls of rice vinegar, 1 spoonful of sugar, and 1/2 spoonful of salt. But if you do not want to risk much, it is also possible to buy a preparation, which you only have to mix with the rice and that’s it.

According to tradition, sushi should be prepared by men, since the temperature of women’s hands is higher, a factor that, according to the belief, could affect the taste.

The word sushi is a category that encompasses a set of recipes. The best known in the Occident are nigiri, sashimi, and maki, but there are others such as futomaki, hosomaki, kappamaki, temaki, uramaki, or narezushi among others. The diversification of this specialty is very extensive.

Paradoxically, sashimi is also included in this category, although it is a dish based on raw fish and without rice.

What is Maki?

What is Maki

In Japanese, ‘maki’ means rolled or wrapped, so maki sushi is vinegared rice wrapped in nori seaweed. Maki sushi would be something like rolled sushi, but the most common way to name it is Norimaki.

It is the best known piece of sushi. Usually fish, seafood, or vegetables such as avocado or cucumber are included in this piece along with the rice. The maki is designed to be eaten with chopsticks and in one bite. There are even different types of sushi maki, in addition to the traditional one, such as uramaki or inverted sushi (the nori seaweed inside and the rice is visible) or osomaki (decorated with sesame or other condiments).

How is Maki prepared?

Maki is made using a mat made of bamboo sticks, on which nori seaweed is placed first. Then a layer of sushi rice is spread on it and then vegetables or fish are added. Finally, it is rolled up and cut into 8 portions of approximately one centimeter each.

What is Nigiri?

What is Nigiri

The nigiri is the most traditional piece of Japanese cuisine. It consists of small portions of rice, compacted and shaped in an oval form, on which fish or seafood is placed.

The nigiri is eaten by dipping the fish or seafood side into the soy, never the rice side. Although nigiri may seem simple to prepare, it is not so simple, as the rice should be neither too compact nor too loose, it should be easy to hold in the hand or with chopsticks without breaking, but it should fall apart in the mouth. Sometimes it can be rolled with a ribbon of nori seaweed.

How is Nigiri prepared?

To prepare Nigiri, the rice should be molded by hand and given a cylindrical oval shape. As we have said before, the pressure that is exerted on the rice should be so that it is neither too compact nor too loose. At the time of taking it with the toothpick, it must allow that the rice does not break until we introduce it in the mouth. A piece of seafood or raw fish is placed on top. A piece of seafood or raw fish is placed on top.

When you are going to eat it, you must put it in the mouth upside down, that is to say, with the raw fish touching with the tongue to feel the flavor better.

What is Sashimi?

What is Sashimi

Sashimi is technically not sushi, as it does not contain rice. Sashimi is small, thin slices of fresh fish.

How is Nigiri prepared?

Sashimi is prepared by cutting slices of raw seafood or fish, usually very fresh. They are usually done in a certain way depending on the type of fish or seafood used.

The type of knife used is also very important and should be taken into account. It is a question of touching the fish as little as possible with the hands. Depending on all this, a certain texture is achieved and the flavor can be perceived very differently. You have to be very experienced to reach this point but it is a highly valued art in Japan. Although it may seem simple to prepare, the truth is that cutting sashimi is one of the most rigorous trainings for a cook or a sushi lover.

How to prepare Sushi at home

How to prepare Sushi at home

Preparing or cooking sushi at home is easy. You just have to buy the ingredients and dedicate a little time to give shape and flavor to this Japanese specialty. Of course, at first, it won’t turn out the way you thought it would, but like everything else in life, making sushi at home is just a matter of practice.

Preparing the rice for sushi

When preparing the rice for sushi, it is important to get the rice to the point of caking or glutinous, necessary to be able to give it the shape we are interested in without breaking it.

There is no Japanese person who does not have a rice cooker at home, also called suihanki. If you do not have it you can also prepare it in the same way by performing the following steps:


  • 2 cups of rice (500 grams)
  • 2 glasses of water (600 milliliters)
  • Sugar (25 grams)
  • White vinegar (60 milliliters)
  • Salt (15 grams)


  1. Wash the rice (about 5 or 6 times) until the water stops running white.
  2. Once washed, drain it and let it dry.
  3. We put it in the express pot and cover it with 2 glasses of water. Let it stand for about 15 minutes.
  4. Then we put it on high heat until it starts to whistle. At this moment we lower the heat to low for about 7 minutes.
  5. After 7 minutes of cooking, we turn off the fire and let it cool down without opening the lid.
  6. When the express pot has cooled a little, we open and move the rice with a wooden spoon or a special spoon called Shamoji.

Vinegar the rice:

Now it is time to vinegar the rice. For this, we need to mix in a pitcher the sugar, the white vinegar, and the salt. Once mixed it is advisable to put it in 30 seconds in the microwave.

At the same time that we are pouring the mixture on the rice, we are fanning it so that it cools down. Finally, you would already have the vinegared rice to use it in any of the variants of sushi.

Type of rice

It may seem that any rice can be used to make sushi. But it is very important to choose good rice, preferably of the japonica rice variety. It is of short grain and once cooked, it must have a firm but not hard texture.

The rice cooker

To get the right texture in the rice, it can be done with an express pot, or with a rice cooker. The Japanese usually use a rice cooker because it is much better to achieve the texture we want to give it.

Cautions when cooking sushi at home: anisakis

If you are going to prepare sushi at home, there are some simple precautions and measures you can take to make sure you do not contract anisakis if you eat fish.

In the case of cooking fried or stewed fish, there is no problem as long as the food reaches a minimum temperature of 60 to 70°C (158°F).

In the case of eating raw, pickled, or marinated fish, it is advisable to freeze the fish for at least 72 hours before consumption.

As for the fish species that have a higher risk of being carriers of the parasite, we find bonito and hake.

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