How to Know Nigiri Sushi

How well do you know your sushi? When you see a sushi roll, you probably know enough to refer to it as a “roll”, but would you know how to identify a piece of sushi that doesn’t come in “roll” form?

At our Issaquah Japanese restaurant, the more traditional variety of sushi is the nigirizushi (literally, “hand-formed sushi”). Often called “nigiri sushi”, or simply “nigiri” in English speaking countries, these are the pieces of sushi with that classic Edo-style shape. They consist of an elongated clump of sushi rice, which is usually mixed with a touch of wasabi. This rice is then topped with a strip of sashimi, tomago, or some other variety of topping, often held in place with a band of nori seaweed.

When a nigiri sushi is topped with a cluster of fish eggs or some other type of loose topping, a thick strip of nori will be wrapped around the rice to create a bowl-like structure on top and hold this topping in place. When this happens, it is called gunkan-maki (“warship roll”), named for the vaguely boat-like appearance created by the nori.