Note: This is the “Educational” part of the site. Since I get all sorts of questions about Sushi (what is it, does it taste good, why do you refer to some women as “Sushi”) I decided to steal some stuff off the Internet to placate the curious.
Here you will find the A,B,C’s of Sushi names, terms, techniques with some cool japanese words thrown into the mix.
What is Sushi? A variety of preparations made with vinegared rice. Contrary to popular opinion, sushi does not mean “raw fish,” but “vinegar rice”: su = vinegar, shi = rice. See Zushi for issues of correct spelling. There is vegetarian sushi as well as sushi made with cooked fish and with raw and cooked meat. The main types of sushi are maki sushi (rolls, including temaki, hand rolls), nigiri sushi (slices of fish on pads of rice) and oshi-sushi, (rice with fish and other toppings molded in a wood box and cut into bite-size rectangles or squares).
Abalone or Awabi: The “king of clams,” has exquisite pearlized coloring on the inside of its shell that is used for jewelry and decorative items. The meat has a crisp, chewy texture.
Aburage: A rectangular, fried bean curd (tofu) pouch used for inari sushi. They are prepared by cooking the bean curd in mirin (sweet cooking saké), shoyu (soy sauce) and water.
Aemono: A purée of tofu and seasonings, used as a dressing or sauce for other dishes.
Agemono: Deep-fried or pan-fried food.
Aji: Spanish mackerel, also known as horse mackerel. It is fillet marinated in vinegar to cure it before serving. Also called sawara.
Aji-No-Moto: Monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Aji-No-Moto: Fresh Spanish mackerel.
Ahi: Ahi tuna is also known as big-eye and yellowfin (not to be confused yellowtail, or hamachi, which is not tuna but a different species). Ahi is also used for tuna tataki and is frequently the type of tuna served seared.
Akagai: Red clam or ark shell.
Akami: Red meat tuna.
Albacore Tuna: High-fat and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the albacore has the lightest flesh (white with a hint of pink) and is the only tuna with meat that can be called “white” in the U.S. Its prized white flesh and mild flavor make it prized for both sushi and canning; it is the most expensive canned tuna, with comparisons to chicken (this earned it the sobriquet “chicken of the sea” and created a major brand of the same name). Albacore tuna are commonly 80 pounds and can reach 200 pounds.
Ama-ebi: Sweet shrimp, served raw. If it is served with the deep-fried shells of the shrimp, the shells are to be eaten as well.
Amberjack: A more mature hamachi or yellowtail.
American Sushi: California rolls, Philadelphia rolls, spicy rolls, spider rolls, even salmon skin rolls were born in the U.S.A. Read more about them under the individual listings.
Anago: Salt water eel, a.k.a. conger eel. Salt water eel is less fleshy and rich than fresh water eel (unagi), but “richness” is a relative term: As apple lovers enjoy different varieties of apples, eel fanciers welcome both types. Eel is not served raw, but is pre-boiled and then freshly grilled prior to serving. In Japan, each restaurant is judged by its anago, since the recipe each uses to steam, boil, marinate and grill differs. Most of our anago supply comes from Japan.
Ana-kyu-maki: Conger eel and cucumber rolls (the salt water eel, anago).
Ankimo: Monkfish liver, generally served in a marinade. The Japanese “foie gras,” and much more affordable!
Anko-nabe: Monkfish stew.
Aoyagi: Yellow round clam.
Bakagai: Orange clam, a beautiful orange color, like a creamsicle. They are harvested off of Long Island; the adductor muscle of the clam is called kobashira and is served separately as a “boat roll.”
Baigai: Small water snails.
Bara Sushi: From the Kansai region of Japan, ingredients mixed with sushi rice to make a rice salad.
Basashi or Sakura: Raw horse meat “sashimi,” typically served on a bed of shredded daikon (white radish) with shiso leaves.
Battera-sushi or Oshi-zushi: Pressed sushi topped with mackerel. Along with hako sushi, battera uses plant leaves (here, aspidistra leaves, which are inedible); however, in battera sushi, the layer of leaves is upside down, which makes for easier removal from the mold. The rice is generally topped with mackerel (and in Japan, gizzard shad is also used), strong-tasting and oily fish. Because of the oily quality, the fish can stay fresh for several days, making battera sushi popular for quick dinners, since it stays fresh for days. To make battera, the mackerel is salted, allowed to stand for six or seven hours, washed and marinated it in a vinegar mixture, placed on the rice and pressed.
Beni-shoga: Red pickled ginger.
Blowfish: See fugu.
Bo Sushi or Bozushi: A pressed sushi that is made in a long, candy bar-type shape and then cut into bite-size pieces. Bo means “stick.”
Bonito or Katsuo: Bonito, also known as skipjack tuna (an all-dark-meat tuna), is eaten as a cooked fish, but is also smoked and dried into a popular Japanese seasoning called katsuo-bushi (the Japanese word for bonito is katsuo). Dried bonito flakes are used to make stock for miso soup, stews, sauces, dips and other foods. In sushi bars, they are often used as a garnish atop mackerel sushi, spinach and other dishes.
Buri: Older yellowtail. Younger yellowtail are called hamachi. Hamachi is unusual in that the same fish is called by a different a name at different stages of life.
Buri Toro: Fatty yellowtail, the belly strip of the fish. Given the fatty richness of yellowtail to begin with, this is an extremely rich piece of fish with a buttery flavor. It is a delicacy and rarely found in the average sushi bar.
California Roll: An American invention, the original California Roll was made by a California sushi chef in the early 1970s. He incorporated avocado, cucumber and fish cake into a roll; he hid the seaweed, which many Americans did not like, inside a layer of rice—today known as an “inside out roll.” The California roll was an instant hit and helped to make sushi part of the 1970s health food movement. Ultimately, crab stick (imitation crab meat) replaced the fish cake. Some chefs decorate the outside rice with tobiko, flying fish roe; some use sesame seeds; most leave it plain. Other variations include substituting carrot or spinach for the cucumber.
Chakin-zushi: Vinegared rice wrapped in a thin egg crêpe. Also called fukasa-sushi. See also inari-sushi, vinegared rice stuffed in a tofu pocket.
Chirashi-sushi: A bowl of sushi rice topped (“scattered”) with assorted raw fish and vegetables; the rice has more vinegar and less sugar than the rice used for nigiri sushi. The toppings are called gu, and can consist of almost anything, raw or cooked. Chirashi is different from “sashimi with a bowl of rice” because sashimi is fish only, not vegetables (except for daikon and carrots and shiso leaf typically used as garnish), and sashimi is served with a separate bowl of plain boiled rice, not set atop seasoned sushi rice. The most common form of chirashi in Japan is vegetable chirashi; the dish is easy to make, and often served at home. Chirashi-sushi originated as bara-sushi in the Kansai region of Japan, where it was largely eels on rice. Later, sushi chefs in the Kanto region scattered sashimi atop rice, the beginning of chirashi as we know it. Today, each restaurant has its own creative chirashi recipe. In addition to sashimi selections, toppings can include ikura, kampyo, nori, shiitaki mushrooms and tamago. See tekka-don.
Chu-Toro: Medium fatty tuna, from the upper belly of the fish.
Crab Stick: See kanikama.
Crunchy Roll: See panko.
Cucumber Roll: Kappamaki, a roll of rice, cucumber, and usually, white sesame seeds.
Cucumber Wrap: A naruto roll (maki), where the rice and other ingredients are wrapped in a thin wrapping of cucumber instead of seaweed.
Daikon: A large, long white radish (often called giant white radish), usually served shredded as an edible garnish with sashimi.
Dashi: The basic Japanese cooking stock made with kombu seaweed and bonito flakes.
Dragon Roll: An American invention, the Dragon Roll is an inside-out roll with a center of eel (and sometimes, cucumber). Sliced avocado is applied to the surface, to resemble the scales of a dragon.
Ebi: Shrimp. While boiled ebi are often served on a sushi combination plate, they are not considered a delicacy. The way to enjoy shrimp is via ama-ebi, raw shrimp, sashimi-style. Ama-ebi is a different species of shrimp.
Edamame: Soybeans steamed in the pod and salted, a popular starter at sushi bars.
Edomae-zushi or Edo-Style Sushi: An old term for nigiri-sushi, based on the Japanese word for Edo, as Tokyo was previously called, where the style was created.
Eel Roll: Broiled eel (unagi), often combined with avocado or cucumber, and garnished with “eel sauce” (see kabayaki tare).
Eel Sauce: See kabayaki tare.
Engawa: Fluke fin. This portion of flesh, near the tail end of the fish, has more a feathery texture, and is popular with connoisseur.
Fatty Tuna: See toro.
Fish Cake: See kamaboko.
Fugu: Blowfishor puffer fish. Its innards and blood contain a deadly poison, tetrodotoxin. In Japan, only licensed fugu chefs are allowed to prepare the fish. It is illegal to import fresh fugu into the U.S.; only frozen fugu is allowed as any toxins would be killed by freezing. The attraction of fugu is not so much an outstanding flavor, but the novelty of the “near-death adventure.” A master sushi chef will serve every edible part of the fugu—not just the flesh (toro, back and tail meat) but the liver, intestines, skin and sperm sac (fugu no shirako).
Fukusa-sushi: A style of sushi in which the rice is wrapped in a paper-thin egg crepe. Fukusa means “silk square.” Silk fabric squares are often used in Japan to wrap presents or precious articles. Also called chakin-sushi.
Funamori: Boat wrap, to contain items that would fall off of regular nigiri-sushi. See gunkan-maki.
Futomaki: Japanese for “large roll,” these are oversized rolls, three times the diameter of a standard maki. Sushi bars in America traditionally offer a single “futomaki” often consisting of tamago (omelet), kampyo (sweetened gourd), kanikama (crab stick) and spinach, shiitake or cucumber, plus a sprinkling of a sweet, pink fish powder called oboro or denbu. However, any sushi can be made as a “large roll.” A chain of sushi restaurants in New York City, called Monster Sushi, has a menu of jumbo sushi rolls for people who like their makis “futo.”
Gari: Thinly-sliced ginger rootpickled in sweet vinegar. It is served with both sushi and sashimi as a palate-cleanser, to be eaten between different types of fish. It can be pink or beige, depending on coloring. The ginger root itself is called shoga; gari is the sound made when the ginger is chewed (the American equivalent might be the onomatopoeias, “chomp” or “slurp”). Gari first began to be served with sushi during the Edo period; it refreshed the mouth between different fish flavors, and also served as an antibacterial agent. Ginger itself had long been used for medicinal purposes. Sushi artists will turn the strips of gari into a rose shape, as shown in the photo at right, and turn the wasabi into a leaf.
Geoduck: Pronounced gooey-duck. See mirugai.
Geta: The block of wood traditionally used as a plate at a sushi bar. The original “sushi bars” were portable wagon carts in front of movie theatres, requiring serving pieces that were not breakable.
Gobo: Burdock root—a long, slender vegetable that looks like tiny carrot. Often part of an order of oshinko (pickles), it is also an optional for vegetarian sushi roll.
Gohan: Plain boiled rice (not sushi rice).
Goma: Sesame seeds, which are sprinkled on particular rolls at the discretion of the chef, notably kappa maki and uramaki. Shiro-goma are white sesame seeds, kuro-goma are black sesame seeds.
Gomoku Sushi: Another term for chirashi sushi.
Gunkan-maki: Literally “battleship roll,” the nori is rolled around the pad of nigiri rice to form an oval-shaped cup (which vaguely resembles a battleship) to contain neta, the “liquid” sushi that can otherwise fall off (for example, ikura, oysters, quaileggs, tobiko and uni). Also known as funamori and kakomi sushi.
Gyu Tataki: Beef tataki (tartare) that is lightly grilled before being chopped into the tataki.
Hako Sushi or Hakozushi: A type of oshi sushi (pressed sushi) made using a wooden rectangular mold. It is the best-known style of pressed sushi, which originated in Osaka. Ric is pressed into the mold lightly, toppings are overlaid, and the “cake” is cut into squares or rectangles. See oshi sushi.
Hamachi: Hamachi, or young yellowtail, is a gleaming, unctuous, firm, pink-hued fish, one of the more flavorful. Often served chopped in a roll with with scallions (negi-hamachi). Hamachi is called by different names, depending on its maturity. Older hamachi is referred to as amberjack.
Hamachi-kama: Yellowtail collars, generally served broiled.
Hamagari: A type of Japanese clam, in season in March.
Hamagari-zushi: A trompe l’oeil style of sushi where egg crêpes are folded into quarters and stuffed with sushi rice and any variety of flavoring ingredients (sesame seeds, ikura, parsley, etc.) The finished product resembles a clam shell. Hamagari-zushi is related to chakin-zushi, where the omelette is wrapped in a bag shape and tied like a beggar’s purse.
Hamo: Pike eel.
Hanakatsuo: Dried bonito, shaved or flaked.
Hand Roll: See temaki.
Harusame: Thin, transparent noodles made of bean gelatin.
Hashi: Chopsticks. Hashi is the Japanese word for bridge. While Chinese chopsticks are squared and the ends are blunt, Japanese chopsticks are round (like a pencil) and the ends taper to a point. One reason for this is the nature of the cuisine: much Chinese cuisine is cut-up and wok-based, while the Japanese eat a lot of whole fish, and the tapered ends facilitate the removal of bones. Chopsticks are the world’s second-most-used method of bringing food to the mouth, after fingers. They were invented in China, where they have been traced back to the 3rd century B.C.E.
Hawara: Domestic mackerel (it tends to be less fishy than saba).
Hazushi: A variety of pressed sushi that is a specialty of Nara, the capital city of Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan. It layers rice and toppings with plant leaves, such as persimmon leaves.
Hijiki: Black seaweed, which has the appearance of large tea leaves (tea leaves also can be eaten as a vegetable, but are not due to the expense). While often enjoyed in a salad, hijiki can be made into a vegetarian sushi roll as well.
Hichimi Togarashi: A mixture of spices for table seasoning, which typically include black hemp seeds, dried mandarin orange peel, ground sansho pepper pods, nori seaweed bits, red pepper (togarashi), white poppy seeds and white sesame seeds.
Hikari Mono: Silver-skinned fish (aji, iwashi, kohada, sanma, sayori, e.g.) sliced for serving, with the silver skin left on. One of the three types of sushi-dane.
Hirame: Hirame is fluke, although it is often mistakenly translated as halibut (which is ohyo). While some people think that the thin, translucent piece of fluke, flecked with red, is one of the less expensive pieces of fish on the plate because it doesn’t have a lot of flavor, it is actually an expensive fish. The rippled fluke fin, or engawa, is popular with sushi connoisseurs.
Hokkigai: Surf clam. Farmed in northern Japan and common to the arctic and the Northeast coast of the U.S. from Delaware to Maine, these sweet, attractive red and white clams appear frequently in sushi bars.
Horse Mackerel: See aji.
Hotate-gai: Scallops. The Spanish also serve scallops raw, but instead of with rice, they’re marinated in citrus juice and called ceviche. Once you taste sweet, raw scallops, you may never cook them again!
Ika: Squid. Squid is one of the seafood items that is not served raw—it would be too chewy to be edible. It is blanched and scored before serving.
Ika-geso: Squid legs, or the tentacles. These are tender and delicious, very different in flavor and texture from the body of the squid. It is unusual to find them at American sushi bars.
Iki zukuri (or ikizukuri): Iki zukuri, or live fish sashimi, is exactly that: You are served a fish live from the tank. Often the fish is carved live and reassembled whole, from head to tail. In New York City, live fish and lobster are served this way, and live octopus and shrimp are also available. This is not limited to Japan and major world cities: We have seen a live lobster carved at a small Japanese restaurant in northern New Jersey.
Ikura: Salmon roe. Ikura means “How much?” in Japanese, likely referring to the value of the roe.
Inarizushi: (稲荷寿司) is a pouch of fried tofu typically filled with sushi rice alone. It is named after the Shinto god Inari, who is believed to have a fondness for fried tofu. The pouch is normally fashioned as deep-fried tofu (油揚げ, abura age). Regional variations include pouches made of a thin omelette (帛紗寿司, fukusa-zushi, or 茶巾寿司, chakin-zushi). It should not be confused with inari maki, which is a roll filled with flavored fried tofu. A version of inarizushi that includes green beans, carrots, and gobo along with rice, wrapped in a triangular aburage (fried tofu) piece, is a Hawaiian specialty, where it is called cone sushi and is often sold in okazu-ya (Japanese delis) and as a component of bento boxes. The pocket itself is called aburage.
Itamae: The sushi chef (or any Japanese chef).
Iwana: Arctic char.
Kabayaki Tare: Kabayaki tare, or eel sauce, is a thick, savory sauce brushed onto eel sushi. It is made of soy sauce, syrup, eel extract and mirin (some products include sugar, but this is not a traditional Japanese ingredient). It is often heated prior to serving. Kabayaki tare also can be served with other sushi and non-sushi foods.
Kaibashira: Eye of scallop, the valve muscle.
Kaiware: Daikon radish sprouts. They can be made into a vegetarian roll.
Kakomi Sushi: Styles of nigiri that use the seaweed as a wrap to hold less solid ingredients. Examples include gunkan maki, the “battleship roll” shape that is used to hold semi-liquid ingredients like quail egg, and funamori or “boat wrap” (the terms are virtually identical).
Kamaboko: Fish cake, made from pounded whitefish mixed with cornstarch, formed into a oval sausage shape, seasoned and cooked.
Kampyo or Kanpyo: A popular vegetarian sushi, long, dried gourd strips the width of fettuccine, marinated in a sweet sauce. Also an ingredient in futomaki. Before the gourd is prepared, it is a light tan color; after marinating, it becomes a translucent brown.
Kani: Authentic crab meat, always served cooked (though often cooked and then frozen—ask the sushi chef). If you can get real, fresh crab, it is worth the price.
Kanikama or Kani Kamaboko: Imitation crabmeat, also called sea leg. It is usually made from pollack or other inexpensive whitefish (hake, tilapia) that has been ground, combined into a paste with starch, egg white, salt, vegetable oil, sugar and seasonings, and formed, artificially colored and flavored to resemble a more expensive seafood—lobster, shrimp, crab, etc. This type of imitation seafood is known categorically as surimi. Kanikama is primarily used in California Rolls, although it also can be served in a salad. Imitation crab does not taste like the real thing—it is just an approximation, as a veggie burger approximates a beef burger.
Kanpachi: Very young yellowtail. Read our review of Kona Kampachi.
Karei: Flounder or flatfish.
Katsuo: Bonito, a type of tuna related to the skipjack. Bonito is the English word, katsuo the Japanese word. See bonito.
Katsuo-bushi: Bonito flakes, a seasoning made of dried bonito.
Kazunoko: Herring roe. Although sometimes served raw (kazunoko konbu), it is usually served marinated in broth, saké and shoyu for added flavor.
Kinmedai: Gold eye sea bream, more rare than regular sea bream, tai.
Koba-shira: Bay scallops.
Kohada: Gizzard shad, known for its shimmering silver skin. See photo.Koi: Saltwater carp.
Kombu or Kombu: One of the key ingredients in Japanese cuisine (it is one of three ingredients needed to make dashi, the basic Japanese soup stock), it is also eaten fresh as sashimi.
Kuro Goma: Black sesame seeds.
Live Shrimp or “dancing shrimp”: Live shrimp sushi or sashimi are a delicacyin Japan. The shrimp are swallowed alive, the shrimp taken from an aquarium, peeled and immediately handed to the customer in sushi or sashimi for for consumption. The shrimp do squirm as they are chewed, which is part of the excitement. See also ikizukuri.
Mackerel: See saba.
Madai: Sea bream. This white fish has red stripes in the translucent, white flesh and is often mistaken by newbies for fluke, which has random splotches of red (but not stripes) in translucent, white flesh.
Maguro: Red, beefy maguro, along with ahi the leading varieties of sushi tuna, is America’s most popular raw fish. Regular maguro is the leaner part of the tuna, from the sides and back of the fish (toro, the belly, is the fatty “delicacy” portion). With thick, firm flesh, it is one of the most flavorful of raw fish. Different species of maguro run at different times of the year: blue fin tuna (hon-maguro) from September to March, big eye tuna (mebachi maguro) after April. The albacore tuna (shiro-maguro or white tuna) is not considered as choice as these two, or the ahi tuna or yellowfin tuna. Lean tuna cut from the back of the fish is called akami. Spicy tuna rolls are an Americanization.
Maki and Maki Sushi: Maki is the Japanese word for “roll,” or rolled sushi. While nigiri-sushi is a relatively recent development, maki sushi originated with Buddhist monks in the 13th century. Maki sushi wraps a sheet of toasted seaweed (nori) and a layer of rice around a different fish, vegetable or other fillings (sometimes, cucumber, egg crêpe or tofu is used as the wrapper). Su-maki is a regular roll, futo-maki is a large roll and te-maki is a hand roll. While some maki have special names, you can order anything in a roll by naming it and adding the wordmaki(saba-maki, uni-maki, hamachi-maki, etc.) and your wishes will be understood.
Makisu: The bamboo mat used to roll sushi.
Masago: Smelt or capelin roe. Capelin roe is similar to tobiko but slightly more orange in color.
Masu: Trout. Rainbow trout is nijimasu.
Meji Maguro: Young tuna.
Mentaiko: Spicy, marinated cod roe.
Mirin: Sweet rice wine. Mirin is used for cooking, and a small amount is added to sushi rice along, with the vinegar.
Mirugai: A giant, long-necked clamor horseneck clam, also known as geoduck. It is slightly crunchy and sweet, and is harvested in the Pacific northwest. The neck meat has a deliciously mild flavor with the crisp, crunchy texture of cucumber. The body meat is tender and has a balanced shellfish flavor. Geoduck can be served as sushi, sashimi or ceviche; the body can also be sautéed or steamed. One whole, cleaned geoduck averages 1.5 to 2 pounds.
Miso Soup: Often offered as a precursor to a sushi or sashimi meal. A traditional Japanese soup consisting of dashi (stock made from kelp and katsuo-bushi) mixed with miso (soybean) paste. Other ingredients are added depending on regional and seasonal recipes; the soup is often served in the U.S. with bits of green onion and cubes of tofu or strips of aburage.
Nama: A prefix which means raw. (The same prefix applied to beer, nama-biiru, means draught.)
Nama-tako: Fresh or raw octopus. Most octopus sushi served in the U.S. is frozen and cooked.
Nanami Togarashi: A table spice made of seven ingredients: black hemp seeds or white poppy seeds, dried mandarin orange peel, ground sansho pepper pods (which provide heat), nori seaweed bits, red pepper (togarashi) and white sesame seeds.
Natto: Fermented soybeans. Natto has a very strong taste and smell that many Westerners won’t grow to like. Japanese enjoy it in a sushi roll.Naruto:A roll (maki) wrapped in cucumber instead of seaweed.Negi: Scallion or green onion.
Negi-toro: Chopped toro and scallion, a popular mixture for rolls and hand rolls.
Neta: Sushi topping, referring to the “liquid” sushi such as ikura, oysters, quail eggs, tobiko and uni, served in kakomi sushi (funamori and gunkan maki).
Nigiri-sushi: A pad or “finger” of vinegared rice upon which a slice of fish or other topping is layered. This style was developed in Tokyo, then known as Edo, at the beginning of the 19th century, and was served at food stalls. It is also known as Edo-style sushi or Edomae-sushi.
Nijimasu: Rainbow trout is nijimasu. Regular trout is masu.
Nori: Dried sheets of purple laver seaweed used in the preparation of sushi rolls, known as norimake. The seaweed is washed and spread to dry, then toasted to enhance its flavor, texture and color. When toasted, it becomes black with green highlights.
Nori-tama: Tamago, or sweetened omelet, typically wrapped in dried seaweed when served as sushi.
Nyotaimori: or “naked body sushi”, is the practice of eating sashimi and/or sushi from the body of a nude woman.
Odori-ebi. “Dancing shrimp,” these are ama-ebi served and eaten alive. A Japanese custom, they are generally not served in U.S. establishments catering to Americans.
Ohba: Another word for the Japanese beefsteak plant, shiso.
Onigiri: Balls (or other shapes) of rice that include various seasoningsand stuffings—sesame and nori, flakes of salmon, etc.
Ohitsu: A special bowl to keep the sushi rice warm. Today, these are electric rice warmers.
Omakase: Chef’s choice—the chef prepares a selection based on the available fish of the day and his personal preferences.
Okonomi: The practice of ordering sushi a few pieces at a time.
Onigiri: Rice balls made with plain steamed rice and filled with various seasonings and stuffings, generally cooked fish and vegetables, nori and ume (plum paste). Some can be wrapped in nori or decorated with shredded nori, as in the photo of the ume rice ball, shown with two slices of pickled radish (takuwan).
Oshibori: The moistened, heated towel offered to cleanse the hands before a sushi meal.
Oshiwaku: A wooden box with a top used to make pressed sushi.
Oshinko: Assorted pickled vegetables, which can be very salty. Another term for pickled vegetables is tsukemono. Depending on the restaurant, the latter can refer to a pickled cucumber salad. The vegetables generally include pickled carrot, cucumber, eggplant and different types of radish.
Oshi-zushi:Osaka-style sushi, squares of pressed rice topped with vinegared or cooked fish. The sushi is prepared in a wooden box called an oshiwaku, then unmolded and cut into bite-size squares and rectangles. There are different styles of pressed sushi, including battera (topped with mackerel or gizzard shad and cut into squares or rectangles), bozushi (pressed into a long candy bar shape and cut into bite-size pieces), hazushi (layered with plant leaves), hakozushi (cut into squares or rectangles, Osaka style), masuzushi (utilizing a bamboo leaf) and tazunazushi (toppings put on at a slant, resulting in “candy cane” stripes).
Otoro: Also known as toro, the fattest and most prized portion of the tuna, from the lower belly of the fish. As with beef, the marbling of fat makes the cut more tender.
Panko: A crispy wheat breadcrumb used in Japanese cuisine. It is made in small flakes rather than ground into crumbs like traditional breadcrumbs, so it provides a crunchier coating. Panko is used to provide crunch in some sushi rolls, either mixed in with chopped fish or sprinkled on other ingredients before they are rolled.
Perilla: See shiso.
Philadelphia Roll: A roll created in America, made of cream cheese (hence the “Philadelphia” brand reference) and either regular raw or smoked salmon.
Ponzu: A sweet sauce made with Japanese citron.
Pressed Sushi: See oshi-sushi.
Rainbow Roll: A reverse roll with strips of variously colored fish and often, avocado, placed diagonally across the top of the sushi roll (the Japanese term is tazuna sushi). The inside can be tuna, a California roll or whatever the chef wishes.
Red Clam or Aka-Gai or Ark Shell or Cockle: Red clam is imported frozen from Japan. The red color comes from hemoglobin in the flesh. It is a tradition to rinse the clam in rice vinegar prior to serving, since some people find the natural scent of the clam to be strong. However, over time, people have become accustomed to it. Ask the sushi chef if it has been rinsed, just so you’ll know if you are tasting vinegar or the natural flavor of the clam.
Renkon: Lotus root.
Roe: Fish eggs, or caviar. You can make a “roe tasting” of ikura (salmon roe), kazunoko (herring roe), masago (smelt roe), mentaiko (spicy cod roe), tarako (Alaska pollock roe), tobiko (flying fish roe) and uni (the gonad of the sea urchin). Don’t forget to add uzura no tamago (quail egg), on top either tobiko or uni—or any of the others
Saba: Mackerel. Mackerel is not served completely raw, but is one of those fish that is cured in rice vinegar with some salt because it spoils quickly. Different types of mackerel can be found at sushi bars, including aji (Spanish mackerel also called horse mackerel), sanma (Japanese mackerel) and sawara (Spanish mackerel). Marinated mackerel is shime-saba. Fresh mackerel, not marinated, is saba-no-tataki.
Sabinuki: This term means “without wasabi” (if you’d like to request your sushi with no wasabi).
Sake: Salmon, pronounced SAH-keh, has glistening orange flesh, which makes it one of the more colorful pieces on the sushi or sashimiplate. It has a wonderful, unctuous texture like toro and yellowtail, but (along with mackerel) much higher levels of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. In addition to being served plain and in spicy salmon rolls, the skin of the salmon, which tastes very different from the flesh, is often grilled and served in a hand roll (temaki).
Saké: Pronounced sah-KAY. Distilled rice wine, pronounced sah-KEH. It is served hot or cold, depending on the quality. Note that unlike regular wine, saké is a distilled product and meant to be drunk young, not aged.
Sakura-masu: Ocean trout.
Salmon: See sake, above.
Salmon Skin Roll: The skin of a smoked salmon is broiled and served, hot and crunchy, generally with cucumber, in a handroll. Invented in America, salmon skin is considered a delicacy, although prior to its adoption by sushi chefs, the skin was thrown away.
Sansho: Called sansho in Japan, this is Sichuan (or Szechuan) pepper. It is not true pepper, but the outer pod of the tiny fruit harvested from of a number of species of evergreen shrubs in the genus Zanthoxylum, known as the prickly ash.
Sanma: Japanese mackerel.
Sashimi: Sliced raw fish, generally served with a bowl of plain, steamed rice (not sushi rice, which is prepared with vinegar and sugar). The word literally means “pierced body.” No one is certain of the origin, but it may have come from the former practice of sticking the tail and fin of the fish on the slices, to let it be known which fish one was eating. Regardless, it must be interesting as a native Japanese speaker to order a “pierced body” platter. While there is no rice implied in the term sashimi, it is generally served with a bowl of plain, boiled white rice.
Sayori: Springtime halfbeak, a fish not often found in the U.S.
Sawara: Spanish mackerel. See also aji.
Sea Bass: See suzuki.
Sea Bream: See madai.
Sea Urchin: See uni.
Seigo: Young sea bass.
Senbei: Thin, crisp rice crackers, flavored with soy sauce (or other seasonings). Senbei can be crumbled and added to sushi rolls for crunch, flavor and decoration, in the manner of panko.
Shako: Mantis shrimp, feisty crustaceans that are neither shrimp but get their name from their combined resemblance to shrimp and the praying mantis. About 12 inches in length, they have powerful claws that they use to kill prey, and can snap a finger from a diver. Mantis shrimp have been known to break through aquarium glass with a single strike from a claw.
Shamoji: A plastic or wooden flat spoon used to scoop and serve rice.
Shari: A sushi bar term for sushi rice.
Shima-aji: Striped jack.
Shime-saba: Marinated mackerel, as opposed to fresh mackerel (saba-no-tataki). Mackerel is marinated to cure it as a spoilage preventative.
Shirauo: Whitebait, served as severa tiny white bait fish in a gunkan-style boat wrap.
Shiro-goma: White sesame seeds (shiro=white, goma=sesame seeds).
Shiro-maguro: Albacore, or white, tuna.
Shiromi-dane: Literally, white meat (shiro=white, dane=meat). About a dozen varieties of sashimi and sushi fish fall into this category, including hamachi (yellowtail), hirame(flute/flounder/halibut), kanpachi (older yellowtail), karei (flounder), shiro-maguro, and tai (snapper).
Shiso or Perilla: Perilla is a genus of herb that is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae and is grown primarily in East Asia and India. Its botanical name is Perilla frutescens var. japonica, and it has a fennel-mint-like flavor (in Nepal and parts of India, it is called silam and is also called ohba). In North America perilla is called by its Japanese name, shiso, since most people have made its acquaintance through sushi bars. There are both green-leafed and purple-leafed varieties. Red shiso is slightly less spicy than green shiso, with an anise flavor. The Japanese use it to color umeboshi (plum paste) and shoga (pickled ginger), as a seasoning with tofu (bean curd) dishes and wrapped around pieces of meat as green shiso is wrapped around raw fish. In addition to sushi and sashimi, green shiso is added to soups, fried in tempura or dried and sprinkled over rice. The shiso leaf may be viewed by some Americans as decorative garnish, but it is a delicious and costly addition to a sashimi plate (or to a sushi roll: negi-hamachi-shiso, yellowtail with scallions and shiso leaf, is an exquisite combination).
Shoga: Ginger root. Many people erroneously learn this as the word for pickled ginger, when they ask for the word for “ginger” at a Japanese restaurant. However, they mean to ask for the word for “pickled ginger,” which is gari. There is a separate type of shoga, beni-shoga, that is colored red and cut into small, thin strips as a garnish for food other than sushi.
Shoyu: Soy sauce, a salty sauce made from fermented soybeans. There are all levels of quality, from “supermarket level” to artisan soy sauces. As with any other products, you can taste the difference. The finest soy sauces aren’t merely salty: You can taste a winey flavor and the beans themselves. Usukuchi shoyu is “light” soy sauce.
Shrimp: See ebi, ama-ebi and odori-ebi.
Soba: Buckwheat noodles.
Soba-zushi: Sushi made with soba instead of rice.
Spicy Tuna Roll: In this American invention, originally developed to hide the discoloration of older tuna, toubanjan (Chinese hot paste) and shichimi (red pepper flakes) are often blended into mayonnaise and mixed with the chopped fish. An American chile pepper sauce like Tabasco, mixed with mayonnaise, or plain hot chile oil, or hot chile oil, can be used instead. The dish became so popular that spicy salmon, spicy salmon and spicy yellowtail are now commonly found.
Spider Roll: An American invention, this is an inside-out roll of tempura-fried soft shell crab. The legs of the crab stick out at either end of the cut roll, resembling the legs of a spider (well, a very tasty spider).
Squid: See ika.
Su: Rice vinegar. Part of the derivation of the word, sushi. Rice is shi in Japanese.
Suimono: Clear soup, based on a fish stock. It is generally offered as an alternative to miso soup prior to the sushi or sashimi.
Suji: Toro sinew, served grilled.
Sukimi: Bits and pieces of fish scraped from the bones of salmon, tuna and yellowtail, to be used in rolls.
Sunomono: Vinegared foods, as distinguished from aemono (a puréed tofu dressing/sauce) or oshinko (pickled vegetables). A sunomono “salad” of vinegar-marinated bean sprouts can often be found on Japanese restaurant menus.
Surf Clam: See hokkigai.
Sushi Bar: In Japan the sushi bar plays a role similar to the pub in England: a relaxed and informal atmosphere. True aficionados sit at the actual sushi bar on a stool, watching the itamae (sushi chef) prepare the selections.
Sushi-dane: The type of “meat” (i.e., fish): white meat, red meat and “ahininf fish” (silvery meat, hikari-mono).
Suzuki: Sea bass. Also called black sea bass, the fish has a delicate white color with red stripes on the skin. The flavor is delicate as well.
Tai: Sea Bream has a lovely white flesh with a pink hue, and red accents. Unless you know your fish, it is easy to confuse with sea bass, which has a similar coloring (but the red accents are more striped).
Tako: Octopus. Much octopus is frozen; it is also blanched because, like squid, it is too chewy to eat raw. Nama tako indicates fresh octopus.
Takuwan: Pickled daikon, generally deep yellow in color. Often part of an order of oshinko, and an excellent option for a vegetarian roll.
Tamago-yaki: Tamago is the Japanese word for egg. In sushi, it refers to a sweetened omelet made in a rectangular pan, cut into small rectangles for sushi or sashimi. When a slice of dried nori (seaweed) is wrapped around the slice of omelet, it is known as nori-tama. In Japan, tamago is the “signature dish” of each chef: Often potential customers will ask for a taste of it in order to judge the chef’s proficiency.
Tataki: Japanese for “finely chopped.” The equivalent of the French “tartare.”
Tarako: Alaska pollock roe.
Tazuna-sushi: A maki roll with diagonal strips of different-colored ingredients across the top—red maguro, orange salmon, green avocado, etc.—as colorful as a rainbow, and hence given the name “rainbow roll.” See rainbow roll.
Tekka-don: Slices of raw tuna over rice. This is tuna chirashi-style, except that chirashi implies an assortment of fish.
Temaki-zushi: A temaki is a cone-shaped hand roll. Add the name of any fish or vegetable the word before temaki,and you will get that item wrapped with rice in a sheet of toasted seaweed. Maguro temaki is a tuna hand roll, hamachi temaki is a yellowtail hand roll, etc.
Tobiko: Flying fish roe. Orange to red in color, these tiny, pinhead-size eggs are crunchy. They are served as in gunkan-maki (boat-style sushi rolls), and also used to coat the outsides of uramaki, “inside out” rolls or reverse rolls. One popular gunkan-maki is tobiko topped with an uncooked quailegg yolk (uzura no tamago).
Toro: The most tender part of the tuna, buttery, rich toro comes from the fatty belly portion. It is a smaller area, so a pricier part of the tuna, rosy in color rather than the bright red maguro that is more commonly served. It is often chopped with scallions for a negi-toro roll. At connoisseur sushi emporia, toro can be ordered as medium fat (chu-toro) and high fat (oo-toro)—similar to choosing the level of fat marbling you want on your steak. Interestingly, prior to the 1920s, when Japanese started adapting more Western dining habits, this fatty part of the fish was not considered prime and was used for cat food.
Tsukemono: Vinegared vegetables. This can include lightly marinated vegetables such as a salad of marinated bean sprouts, as well as pickles (oshinko), which can include Chinese cabbage, cucumber, daikon, ume and turnips. Gari is also a type of tsukemono. They are served with rice, and can be made into sushi.
Tuna: Several varieties of tuna are used for sushi and sashimi, including ahi (yellow fin) and maguro. Blue fin, big eye and albacore are different species of maguro. See also toro (above) and chu-toro.
Umeboshi: A small, bitter, pickled Japanese plum that is made into a paste (neri ume) used in a sushi roll.
Ume-shiso: A tart plum paste (neri ume) and shiso leaf mixture, a popular sushi roll (maki) combination in Japan. Japanese diners feel that ume clears the palate and leaves a pleasant aftertaste, and often order it to conclude a sushi dinner. Many American palates find the flavor too tart.
Unagi: Freshwater eel, which is richer than salt water or conger eel (anago). Eel is not served raw, but is pre-boiled, freshly grilled prior to serving and brushed with a rich sauce called kabayaki tare. Most of our unagi supply is imported pre-cooked from Taiwan and China, but is marinated and re-broiled by the restaurant.
Uni: The gonad of the sea urchin. Sea urchin is one of those foods that people either love or hate. The taste can vary widely—people tend to think it is seasonality, but it is actually geographical. U.S. uni can come from California, the east coast of Canada, Maine and other regions, each with different nuances of flavor and appearance. The California uni tend to be sweeter and more creamy. Maine uni are reportedly less creamy, with a stronger taste. Even if one has a preference, each of these can be attractive as long as they are fresh. Uni is an aphrodisiac.
Uramaki: Reverse roll or “inside out roll,” where the rice is on the outside of the sheet of nori instead of on the inside.
Uzura no tamago: Quail egg. A raw quail egg is often served on top of tobiko or uni in a gunkan-maki.
Wakame: A popular seaweed, long strands known as lobe-leaf seaweed, served as a vinegared salad (tsukemono) at sushi bars, as well as in miso soup.
Wasabi: In most restaurants, this is “faux wasabi,” a hot horseradish/mustard mixture that is served instead of real wasabi, to be mixed with soy sauce as a dip for sushi and sashimi. Read the difference between real wasabi and imitation wasabi.
Yakumi: Strongly-flavored seasoningssuch as grated daikon (daikon oroshi), finely- chopped scallions (negi) and a spice blend such as shichimi togarashi are used instead of wasabi on stronger-flavored nigiri such as aji, iwashi, katsuo and sanma. However, the technique has been expanded by some chefs, who use no wasabi or soy sauce on any of their sushi. In New York City, Sushi of Gari and Sushi Seki season each type of fish individually, ready to eat—white tuna with a concasse of tomato and onions, scallops with curried mayonnaise and salmon marinated in citrus vodka, for example. The results are spectacular.
Yellowtail: See hamachi. Yellowtail is a fish that is called different names depending on its age. Inada is a very young yellowtail, hamachi is medium age, buri an older yellowtail.
Zuke: Japanese for “marinated.” In the Edo Period, sushi was often served already marinated in soy sauce. Today, some creative sushi chefs serve pieces of sushi already marinated in citrus, saké or vodka, requiring no use of soy sauce.
Zushi: The more correct spelling for sushi; however, the “unvoiced” transliteration has caught on in the U.S., to the chagrin of Japanese-speaking people. A grammatical rule called rendaku governs the voicing of the initial consonant of the non-initial portion of a compound or prefixed word. Thus, the word “sushi” as a standalone noun would be pronounced with the unvoiced “s,” but when it becomes part of a compound noun, it becomes a voiced “z,” e.g., maki-zushi. There are also exceptions to the rule—all of which are too complex for Americans to follow. Thus, Japanese will continue to translate correctly, while Americans will continue to call everything “sushi” rather than attempt to figure out which is sushi and which is zushi.