Sushi Vs Sashimi: The Difference

The difference between sushi vs. sashimi is easy to recognize. Sushi is vinegared rice with a combination of vegetables and sometimes raw fish all wrapped in seaweed whereas sashimi is a thin slice of fish served by itself.

Maybe you’ve gone to a sushi place and seen both sushi and sashimi on the menu. If you’re confused about the difference between the two kinds of food, you aren’t the only one. The terms sushi and sashimi are frequently used interchangeably by people in some areas. Technically, there is a difference between the two dishes though.

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So what exactly is the difference between sushi and sashimi? In the simplest terms, sushi is the vinegared rice that is wrapped around either raw fish or other ingredients. Sashimi is slices of raw fish or other seafood. There are some other differences between the two meals as well, so let’s go over those in greater detail.

The Composition Of Sushi

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A common misconception is that sushi refers to the raw fish within the rice, yet sushi actually refers to the rice itself. The rice used to make sushi is vinegared and sticky so that it will stick together around bits of food. This is done by taking steamed white rice and seasoning it with vinegar, sugar, and salt. The term sushi actually translates roughly to “sour-tasting”, reflecting the fact that the vinegared rice and pickled fish have a sour taste to them. Sushi rolls don’t technically have to have fish in them, they can also have things like vegetables or egg within them, though fish is a common ingredient. Sushi also doesn’t have to have raw ingredients, the ingredients can be cooked even though they are often raw.

Another common ingredient in sushi is nori, or dried seaweed. The seaweed can be on the outside of the roll or on the inside. Common types of sushi include nigiri, temaki, norimaki, and gunkan. Nigiri sushi is slices of raw fish that have been pressed over the vinegared rice. The fish is thinly sliced and it can also be made out of shrimp or squid. Temaki, sometimes called hand sushi rolls, are made out of sushi and fish or other ingredients wrapped up in a sheet of nori so that it has a conical shape. These cones can be eaten by hand, hence the term hand roll. Norimaki is the “classic” sushi roll, the vinegared rice surrounded by nori seaweed with vegetable and fish in the middle. Norimaki sushi rolls are probably the most recognizable sushi rolls out of all of them. Gunkan sushi is a large, oval-shaped roll that looks a bit like a battleship (which is what the word “gunkan” translates to). The rolls are typically filled with vinegared rice and fish roe, which are the eggs of fish.

It is thought that sushi originated in Southeast Asia as a method of preserving fish. During the eighth century, the Japanese began eating the rice as well as the fish that was preserved inside of it. The practice of using vinegar to sour the rice likely began in during the Edo era. The Edo era, also known as the Tokugawa era, was from around 1600 to approximately 1860. The inventor of the nigiri zushi roll is said to be Hanaya Yohei during the early 1800’s.

In terms of nutrition, sushi has much more carbs and calories than sashimi does, because sashimi is just fish while sushi has rice and other ingredients along with it. Sushi which has fish in it is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked with various health benefits including a reduced probability of developing heart disease. Sushi is generally safe to consume by most people, yet as tainted fish can lead to serious health problems, pregnant women and those who have immune system deficiencies may want to be careful about the sushi they eat.

The Composition Of Sashimi

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Now that you know that sushi refers to the rice and not the fish, it comes as much less of a surprise that sashimi refers to slices of fish. Sashimi is usually served as very thin slices of salmon or tuna, and though sushi is served alongside rice, sashimi doesn’t have rice alongside it. Furthermore, while sushi can be cooked sashimi will almost always be served raw.

Sashimi can be made out of many different types of sea creatures, such as salmon, mackerel, sea bream, tuna, yellowtail, shrimp, and crab. Sashimi made with prawns is often called ebi, while sashimi made out of tuna is referred to as either maguro or toro. Tako sashimi is made out of octopus while ika sashimi is made with squid. Octopus is an exception to the raw sashimi rule, often served cook because of how chewy it is. Sashimi is often served on a bed of daikon, shredded radish. Soy sauce and wasabi are often provided with it, alongside pickled ginger.

The history of sashimi is a little murky, but it thought to date back to the Heian period of Japan. This was the era that took place from roughly 800 to 1185. Court nobles during the Heian period were said to eat raw fished that had been seasoned with vinegar and cut into thin slices. Yet another theory of the dish’s origin comes from the Kamakura period (approximately 1150 CE to 1330 CE), where fisherman would sell slices of fish street-side as a type of fast food.

The nutritional value of sashimi can vary a lot, depending on the kind of fish or other meat used to create it. Fish meat tends to be leaner and a little healthier than red meat. As with sushi that contains fish, sashimi made out of fish can contain substantial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish also tends to be a little safer to consume than red meat, though one does have to worry about the possible biomagnification of heavy metals. In general, when properly prepared sashimi is perfectly safe, but once again pregnant women and those with weak immune systems may want to exercise caution.


To recap:

  • Sushi isn’t raw fish but vinegared rice.
  • This vinegared rice can be wrapped around raw fish or other ingredients.
  • Fish doesn’t need to be included in sushi.
  • Sushi is usually prepared raw but may sometimes be cooked.
  • Sashimi doesn’t have rice served with it.
  • Sashimi is almost always made out of fish or other sea creatures.
  • Sashimi is almost always raw, though in a few rare cases may be cooked.
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