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Sashimi Or Sushi? Japanese Restaurant Terminology

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Sashimi, sushi, nigiri, maki? Before you experience the seafood and specialties of a Japanese restaurant, take a look at the top menu-based terminology you may want (or need) to know.

Are Sashimi and Sushi the Same?

While you will find both of these categories on the menu of most Japanese eateries, sashimi and sushi are not the same. Sashimi and sushi may both contain raw fish or seafood. But sashimi is prepared in thin slices, strips, or other shapes (such as cubes) and is often served plain. While fish or seafood sashimi is popular, this raw option is also made from other thinly-sliced proteins. Some restaurants (Japanese and other cuisines) may offer beef, pork, or chicken sashimi—completely raw or seared.

Sashimi is sometimes served with rice, soy sauce, ginger, or other accompaniments. Like sashimi, sushi also features raw fish or seafood. Along with the thin slices, cubes, or shapes, this traditional Japanese menu option also includes vinegared rice. The fish and rice are rolled into bite-sized pieces and typically covered or bound with seaweed. 

Sushi rolls don't only include a protein, such as raw fish. A restaurant may choose to include raw vegetables, fruit (such as mango), or other types of fillings.

What Are Nigiri and Maki?

These terms refer to two types of sushi. Nigiri includes vinegared sushi rice, shaped in a long oval. The sushi chef tops the rice with a slice of raw fish or another type of seafood. Maki is what you might think of when you hear the word sushi. This traditional Japanese restaurant item is rolled in seaweed (also known as nori). After rolling the fish, seaweed, vegetable, or another filling in vinegared rice and nori, the chef slices the sushi into bite-sized pieces. Some types of maki sushi have the nori on the inside and the rice on the outside, giving them an inside-out appearance.

Which Option Should You Order?

There's no universal answer to this question. The decision to order sashimi or sushi (nigiri or maki) is based on personal preference. If this is your first experience with Japanese cuisine, you may want to order a sampling of different options. This allows you to explore sashimi and sushi. It also gives you the chance to try raw fish, seared seafood, other types of seafood, vegetables, and more. 

When you try the different preparations, you can also experiment with more than just taste. Sashimi and sushi options give you the chance to try a variety of textures, heat levels, and accompaniments.