Now lets move on to the different types of sushi and how to make them.
There are many different types of sushi; the two most often seen are maki sushi and nigiri sushi. Maki sushi is what you will find most often on this blog (and in restaurants), hence the name of this blog. Maki sushi has two foundation ingredients, sushi rice and nori, which are combined in various ways to set up for the different types of maki.
Now we already learned all about sushi rice in lesson 3, so let’s take a minute to talk about nori. First of all, what is this stuff?
Nori is made by harvesting seaweed, rack-drying it, and processing it into sheets through a Japanese paper-making method. This process is highly automated for the obvious efficiency factor, but I think it would be fascinating to find somewhere that does it by hand. Nori comes in sheets that are about 7 inches by 7 inches. These are cut in half for every style of maki other than futomaki, and for this reason you can also buy nori sheets that are already half-sized (4′ x 7′). Nori has two sides to it: rough and smooth. This is important as you always adhere rice to the rough side.
If seaweed is not your thing, there are also maki rolls made with mamenori (soy paper), which also opens you up to more creative possibilities. These are starting to grow in popularity, and for good reason. They are more versatile, and even come in different colors and flavors. These are great for making “gaijinmaki”.
It is important to understand the fundamental differences between each type of maki before you learn how to roll them. The most prevalent types of maki are outlined below.
Hosomaki — also known as a thin roll. These are meant to have only one ingredient because of obvious size limitations, but you can certainly squeeze in a thin layer of sauce or a a small garnish ingredient such as thinly sliced scallions or pickled ginger. Common hosomaki inclue tekkamaki (tuna) and kappamaki (cucumber). These are also generally the safest option for vegetarians or those who are still shy of raw fish. These are the chepeast items on a sushi menu, often listed as “regular maki” and included in lunch specials. Keep in mind that one order (or two) of hosomaki does not make a meal.
To start a hosomaki, spread about 1/3 cup of rice on the rough side of a half-sheet of nori, working with moistened hands. Leave the top third of the nori exposed. Focus and spreading and making flush, rather than pressing and squeezing.
*We will finish the rolls in lesson 5.
Futomaki — also known as a fat or thick roll. These are more sizeable maki with multiple ingredients on the inside and often dressed up on the outside. These run the gamut of fillings but usually include one or two types of seafood, various vegetables, and a sauce. Sometimes you will find “futo maki” on a menu which usually refers to a roll filled with lots of vegetables such as asparagus and mushrooms, tofu, egg and/or fish eggs. Menu categories labeled as “special maki” usually refer to futomaki and can be pretty pricey, but these are far more filling than a hosomaki and you can make a meal out of just one order.
These are formed the exact same way as a hosomaki, but you use a full sheet of nori. Just be aware that the difference in size is actually quite significant. You can fit a lot more ingredients in a futo maki. Layer sauce and looser ingredients first so they will not spill over when you roll.You can cut these into 8 or 10 pieces — again you can use guidelines for more even cutting.You can additionally make a half-size futomaki by flipping a half-sheet of nori so that the short end is facing you. This style is used to make Boston rolls which have a large portion of tuna inside, and for some deep-fried maki.
Uramaki — also known as an inside-out roll. These are the most commonly seen maki in western society, although not as prevalent in Japan. These were made popular by the ever rampant California roll. I believe these are also popular in America due to the seaweed nori being hidden.
These are probably the easiest type of maki to make GIVEN that your rice is well-made and you wrap your makisu in plastic wrap. If the rice is not perfect, this style becomes much more difficult.
It can be difficult to tightly wrap your bamboo mat for continued use, unless you have heavy duty restaurant-sized plastic wrap. You can get away with a fairly loose, imprecise wrap, but it won’t last that long. It is worth it to learn how to securely wrap your makisu by attending my advanced course. For now, just make sure the wrap covers both sides of the mat, and tuck all the corners and edges to one side.
Now to form the base of an uramaki, start by spreading a handful of rice evenly onto the rough side of a half-sheet of nori, covering the entire surface.
Then, flip it over so the rice is facing down. Place your ingredients on this shiny side of the nori. You can fit a few more ingredients in an uramaki than a hosomaki.
I’ve never really seen a full-sheet uramaki, and I believe that is because the pieces would end up being too big for one bite. Each piece of sushi regardless of style, is meant to be eaten in one bite.
Temaki — also known as a hand roll. These are basically the Japanese version of a wrap. The nori is wrapped around rice and ingredients. Temaki are not often seen in the U.S. and they can actually be fairly difficult to eat because nori does not easily tear when bitten. These are, however, a great vehicle for brown rice sushi which lackss the level of stickiness desired to form other types of maki.
Kazarimaki* — also known as a decorative maki. I have never actually encountered these in a sushi bar, and for good reason. They are incredibly difficult to master and take a painstaking level of detail to execute. I am still mastering this myself, and am far from it. Each unique design will always have its own learning curve, but there is a large conceptual learning curve to get over when you first start. These are more of an art project than they are food, as they can take so long to make and may use ingredients just for their unique look or color. Still, you will see these on my site from time to time when I am feeling creative and have extra time to spare.
Other types of popular sushi
Nigiri — also known as hand-formed sushi, not to be confused with hand-rolled temaki. This is the more traditional style of sushi, and how the majority of sushi is consumed in Japan. Nigiri is a skillfully formed oblong ball of sushi rice topped with an ingredient, usually a large piece of fresh raw fish. When a sushi bar menu refers to simply “sushi”, they are referring to nigiri which is ordered a la carte or in larger platters. An order generally comes with 2 pieces. Nigiri is also not to be confused with Onigiri, which is a triangular rice ball with a strip of nori at the base and sometimes filled with ingredients.
Sashimi — served as raw fish without rice. Sashimi is often paired with sushi in large platters or boats, and also ordered a la carte. One order is typically three pieces and served with daikon and other garnishments. This is sushi at its simplest form. If you are curious about how a particular type of fish tastes, order some sashimi!
Gunkanmaki — also known as battleship sushi. This is kind of a cross between nigiri and maki. It is formed like a piece of nigiri sushi and not rolled, so the name is a little misleading. It is rare to see this term used in menus, but you will find it with the nigiri sushi. Gunkanmaki is made for loose ingredients, such as fish roe. Masago or ikura sushi is actually gunkanmaki. It is formed by wrapping a piece of nori around an oblong of sushi rice.
Chirashi — also known as scattered sushi. Chirashi sushi is a bed of sushi rice in a bowl topped with various types of sashimi, vegetables, and garnishes. This is a traditional dish eaten at the Japanese New Year, but can of course be ordered year round.
Inari — sushi rice stuffed inside a sweet tofu pouch. These are great simple starters and tastier than they sound.
Gaijinmaki – this is my term for unique maki that draw inspiration from other parts of the globe. Soy wrappers make a great base for these creative sushi rolls. Gaijin means foreigner in Japanese.
If other types of sushi you may be looking for are not listed here, check out my Japanese Glossary.