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The Difference Between Sushi And Sashimi?

Sushi has become something of a phenomenon in recent years, with sushi restaurants cropping up everywhere. 

There are many different varieties of sushi, and sushi is often served alongside Sashimi. Sashimi is frequently mistaken as a type of sushi, but in fact, it’s not, as it contains no rice – and rice is a sushi staple. 

DIfferent Japanese Food On Wooden Plate

In this article, we’ll be explaining the differences between sushi and sashimi, as well as how they compare to other varieties of sushi

That way, next time you’re sitting in your favorite sushi restaurant, you’ll have a better idea of what each variety contains, and you might even decide to try something new! 

What is Sushi? 

What is Sushi

Sushi originates from Japan, and is a traditional dish consisting of vinegared rice which is usually seasoned with some sugar and salt, and is served with other ingredients – most commonly raw seafood, and sometimes vegetables. 

While ingredients can vary, the one constant when it comes to sushi is sushi rice, also referred to as “shari” or “sumeshi.” Traditional sushi rice is medium grain and white, though sushi rice can also be prepared with brown rice or short-grain rice. 

Seafood is also a common feature in sushi, even though you can get vegetarian varieties.

Sushi is often prepared with squid, eel, yellowtail, salmon, tuna, or imitation crab meat, and is served with pickled ginger (gari), wasabi, and soy sauce, or sometimes garnishes such as daikon radish or pickled daikon. 

Like we said previously, sushi has many varieties, but basically, any pairing of ingredients with vinegared rice that is served in bite-size pieces is considered sushi. 

Even though sushi is usually always associated with fish, it actually has nothing to do with fish at all. The word “sushi” actually refers to the preparation of the rice, which is a specific variety that is prepared with rice wine vinegar. 

The vinegar infuses the rice with flavor and allows it to clump together so that it can be shaped into rolls or other forms. While sushi often features fish, it can also be made with egg, or vegetables such as avocado and cucumber. 

Sushi often gets confused with sashimi, though the latter is not technically a type of sushi as it doesn’t contain rice. 

What is Sashimi? 

Different Sashimi on a plate

Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish or occasionally meat. 

Loosely translated, Sashimi means “pierced body,” which is a reference to the Japanese delicacy of thinly sliced fish or other types of meat.

Sashimi is usually eaten plain with just soy sauce, which allows the flavors of the meat to be truly appreciated. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking Sashimi is plain or boring – as Sashimi-grade fish is among the highest quality seafood available.

It is usually caught on a single line rather than in a net and is killed and iced immediately upon being landed, which allows it to stay fresh and prevents a build-up of lactic acid. Sashimi-grade fish is also some of the safest fish available.

Popular varieties of sashimi include fatty tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and squid, though in Japan, other types of meat may be served sashimi-style, such as chicken, beef, and even horse. 

What is the difference between Sushi and Sashimi? 

The main difference between sushi and sashimi is that the former uses rice while the latter does not. Both feature raw fish, though sushi may not always use fish, while sashimi always does. 

Sashimi will usually be more expensive as it’s always made using a higher grade of seafood. This is one of the reasons why it’s served with minimal garnishes and sauces, to allow the flavor of the fish or meat to shine alone. 

Sushi on the other hand may be paired with pickled ginger (gari), wasabi, soy sauce as well as garnishes such as daikon radish or pickled daikon. Some varieties may even include cream cheese. 

While sushi is pretty versatile and diverse, sashimi is more traditional and there are stricter standards when it comes to what can be classed as sashimi, and what fish or meat can be used for sashimi. 

What is the difference between Nigiri and Maki? 

Nigiri and Maki on a plate

Nigiri and maki are popular varieties of sushi, and they’re the two main types you’ll find in sushi restaurants. The main difference between Nigiri and Maki is the ways in which they’re made and presented.

Nigiri is a bite-sized, hand-pressed rectangular mound of rice that is topped with a piece of sashimi.

There is usually a small amount of wasabi between the fish and rice which allows them to adhere to one another better, though sometimes a thin strip of toasted seaweed (nori) may be used to secure them. 

The word nigiri comes from the Japanese nigirizushi, which translates as “hand-pressed sushi.” Nigiri is almost always made with a slice of sashimi-grade fish atop of the rice, though the fish may not always be raw. 

Nigiri that contains eel (unagi) or shrimp (ebi) are cooked before serving.

There’s also Tamago nigiri which is made with a special kind of sweet egg –  similar to an omelet – which is then combined with rice and nori (seaweed).

Maki is the type of sushi that probably springs to mind when you think of “sushi.” Maki is rolled up and sliced into round bite-size pieces. It consists of fish, vegetables or other ingredients rolled up with vinegared rice and wrapped inside seaweed (nori)

While Maki often contains raw or cooked seafood like Nigiri, it’s also possible to get fish-free varieties that use vegetables such as avocado or cucumber. 

These are a great option for vegetarians or vegans, or for those who are nervous about eating raw fish or are trying sushi for the first time.

For those who are bold and want to try something a little more sophisticated, nigiri or sashimi is a great way to taste top-quality seafood. 

What is the difference between Nigiri and Sashimi? 

Nigiri is a type of sushi, whereas Sashimi is often served alongside sushi but is not itself a type of sushi. 

Sashimi is raw fish thinly sliced, whereas Nigiri is a slice of Sashimi placed on top of a hand-shaped mound of sticky rice. Sashimi doesn’t contain rice – just fish or meat – but may sometimes be served with an accompaniment of rice.

Both are similar in that they use a high grade of seafood and have high standards of quality. 

Final Verdict 

The term “sushi” tends to be thrown around quite a lot, but actually, sushi can come in many different forms and varieties. Sashimi is also often confused with sushi, though it’s not the same thing. 

Knowing the different types of sushi and the difference between sushi and sashimi can be useful when visiting Japan or a sushi restaurant, as it will allow you to develop an understanding of what you’re eating, and may even convince you to select something different next time you’re dining out! 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.