A Sushi Primer

What those Japanese terms mean

04 Jan, 2015 by Vir Sanghvi

The popularity of sushi in the domestic market has taken most Indian restaurateurs by surprise. But while there’s lots of sushi available at various price points from the heights of Megu to various takeaway places, many of us are still fuzzy about the terms used on menus.

Here’s a brief guide to some names.

Sushi: A general term for fish and rice, in a variety of shapes.

Nigiri: A pellet of seasoned white rice topped with a piece of fish (cooked or uncooked), vegetable or egg.

Maki Sushi: A roll in which fish or other ingredients are at the centre and the rice is on the outside.

California Roll: An inauthentic variation on maki rolls, said to be created in America.

Hamachi: Yellowtail tuna or amberjack, usually young, which is a popular sushi ingredient.

Tobiko: The caviar-like eggs on top of some nigiri sushi: it is the roe of the flying fish.

Fugu: The famous Japanese blowfish that contains deadly toxins. Only a licensed chef can cut it and make fugu sushi from the non-poisonous parts.  

Ebi: Shrimp. It is usually cooked when used in sushi.

Toro: The fatty tuna belly. It is further sub-divided into: O Toro, Chu Toro etc. In sushi terms, it has the same status as foie gras.

Tempura: A Japanese pakora. It is now frequently used at the centre of sushi rolls for its crunch.

Wasabi: A plant with a strong horseradish or mustard-like kick. Fancy places will give you the real thing but most commercial wasabi is fake, made to taste like the real thing.

Sashimi: Slices of raw fish.

Avocado: Popular sushi ingredient outside of Japan because it mimics the fattiness of toro.

Written By



Vir Sanghvi is India's best-known food writer and TV host. His book, Rude Food won the Cointreau Award for Best Food Literature book in the world and his food and travel shows on channels such as TLC and NDTV Good Times have won numerous awards and continue to be watched by millions.

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