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Sushi Terminology

What is sushi?

Beginning as a method of preserving fish centuries ago, Sushi has evolved into an artful, unique dining experience. In its earliest form, dried fish was placed between two pieces of vinegared rice as a way of making it last. The Nori (seaweed) was added later as a way to keep one's fingers from getting sticky.

Technically, the word `sushi' refers to the rice, but colloquially, the term is used to describe a finger-size piece of raw fish or shellfish on a bed of vinegared rice or simply the consumption or raw fish in the Japanese style (while sushi is not solely a Japanese invention, these days, the Japanese style is considered the 'de facto' serving standard). This can be eaten as is, or is often dipped into Shoyu (Japanese Soy Sauce) and then eaten. Great care is taken in the creation of the dish and the many methods of preparing the food indicate the importance of appearance to the educated consumer. Sushi is a work of art as much as a food, and while it is now available in a western 'quick and easy' serving style, the traditional ways are far from lost.

What are the different kinds of sushi?

There are a few different kinds, depending on how the item is presented. They are:

Chirashi sushi

Chirashi Sushi

Usually a bowl or box of sushi rice topped with a variety of sashimi.


Inari sushi

Inari Sushi

Aburage (fried pouches of tofu) stuffed with sushi rice.


Maki sushi

Maki Sushi

The rice and seaweed rolls with fish and/or vegetables. There are also more specific terms for the rolls depending on the style. They are:

Futomaki - thick rolls
Hosomaki - thin rolls
Uramaki - inside-out rolls

Nigiri sushi

Nigiri - Sushi

The little fingers of rice topped with wasabi and a filet of raw or cooked fish or shellfish. Generally the most common form of sushi you will see.

Temaki sushi

Temaki Sushi

Also called a hand-roll. Cones of sushi rice, fish and vegetables wrapped in seaweed. It is very similar to maki.

The fish in sushi can also come in a few different forms and styles, apart from the plain piece of fish. You might see:

Neta - the name for the piece of fish placed on a piece of nigiri sushi.
Hikari mono
- a piece of fish with the silvery skin left on.
Sukimi - A chopped up piece of fish sometimes used in Maki (rolls) or served as Sashimi.

What is sashimi? 

SashimiSashimi is raw fish served sliced, but as-is. That means no rice bed or roll, but it is often served alongside Daikon and/or Shiso. This is my favorite style as you really get the flavor of the fish. Plus, it's a great way to impress Sushi Newbies!

Sashimi is often cut in different ways to enhance the appearance of the fish. Hira zukuri is the standard rectangular shape cut. A thinner cut is called Ito zukuri, and is often no more than 1/16 inch thick. The thinnest, called Kaku zukuri is paper-thin and is often presented in a pattern.

What are those other things I see on my plate?

Depending on what you ordered and the whim of the chef, you might see items such as Wasabi (the hot green Japanese Horseradish -like rhizome), Gari (pickled ginger, which comes in both a pink and a light tan color, with the lighter stuff usually indicating better quality). You may also see a large green leaf called Shinso, which is often served with Sashimi, and a shredded white mass of Japanese radish called Daikon, which is also often served with sashimi.


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Maki Express Sushi
209 W. McMillan Street,
Cincinnati, Oh 45219
Tel: (513) 721-6999