What Is Nigiri?

Image source: The Daily Meal

Nigiri is a type of sushi that is commonly found in sushi restaurants around the world. Nigiri, unlike maki, is not rolled in seaweed and consists of a thinly sliced piece of raw fish laid over a lump of sushi rice.


Sushi has been popular in the West for decades now. But there are still many people outside Japan who do not know all the different types of sushi that exist. The latest craze is Nigiri sushi but, what is it?

Many people in the West have a very monolithic idea of what sushi is. Even people who consume sushi often and might even consider themselves to be huge fans of Japanese cuisine may struggle to distinguish among all the different types of sushi that are out there.

One thing that would surprise most people is that, actually, sushi is a seasonal dish. Or, at least, some types of sushi can be. In Japan sushi is prepared with fresh ingredients but, depending on the time of the year, some ingredients may be available while others would be hard or even impossible to find.

One key component of all the different types of sushi is fish so, depending on the time of year different fish that are available are used in the preparation of this delicious Japanese dish.

Today, we will explore the latest craze: Nigiri and all the other main types of sushi.

What Is Nigiri Sushi?

Although many people in the West may have discovered Nigiri sushi only recently, this type of sushi actually goes back a long time in Japan.

It is a very simple yet delicious type of sushi. It is just a “shari” (rice cylinder) which has many kinds of different toppings. Usually, the topping is seafood, but it can also be an omelet, meat, tofu, or even vegetables. When using fish, this can be boiled using a blowtorch or it can be pickled in either vinegar or soy sauce.  The topping may also be coated with different kinds of onions, chives, or marinade.

Nigiri sushi is also known as Edo-Mae in Japan. Edo is the former name of the city of Tokyo from where this type of sushi originates.

Its origins are in the 19th century when it was created as a quick snack for workers. As such, it could be considered one of the earliest examples of fast food in the world. The difference is that, unlike most of what we think of as fast food now, Nigiri sushi is most certainly not junk food.

So, what are the other types of sushi out there? How can you tell them all apart from Nigiri sushi?

Well, the best way would be to explore all the other different types of sushi that are available.


What most people in the West think of as sushi is, actually, makizushi.

Makizushi refers to a roll of rice and other ingredients in a sheet of nori seaweed.

Image source: Yo! Sushi

In Japan, makizushi is also referred to as norimaki. Nori seaweed was created back in the early 18th century. The technique used to create the seaweed sheet is similar to the one that was used for making paper.

The “maki” part of the world is a reference to the toasted sheet of seaweed that all the other ingredients are wrapped around.

In Japanese, sushi does not mean raw fish. It means seasoned rice. – Guy Fieri


The rolls of this kind of sushi are very long. The ingredients are incredibly simple: cucumber, fresh tuna, sometimes, instead of cucumber pickled daikon is used.

There are different kinds of makizushi. For example, there is a thicker version known as Futomaki (futo being the Japanese word for “fat” or “thick”). It is rare to find Futomaki in sushi restaurants in Japan. It is more common to find them in ready-made bento boxes that can be bought in supermarkets and other places that sell groceries.

Another version is Uramki (or inside out sushi). The origins of this kind of sushi are not in Japan but in the United States, where in the 1960s a chef in California invented it.

Gunkan Maki

This type of sushi dates back to the 1940s, when a chef in Ginza, Japan used a strip of nori to wrap a rice ball and then filled up the space between them with different ingredients.

Image source: Trip Advisor

The name of this sushi comes from its ship-like shape (in Japanese Gunkan means warship or battleship).

Many different toppings can be used but the most popular ones are squid, sea urchin, tuna and green onion, crab brains, or potato salad.

This type of sushi is just as common as part of a bento box or something that you can readily order at any sushi restaurant in Japan.


This is a fairly new and exciting type of sushi. If Nigiri sushi is a craze, you just wait until this type of sushi becomes better known in the West.

Image source: Japan Center

The most exciting feature about Temaki is its shape. Temaki looks like an ice cream code. The nori seaweed sheet is given a conical shape, which is then filled with different ingredients such as squid, omelet, pickled plum, etc.).

Temaki is so easy to make that many people just make it themselves at home. But you can also find it at restaurants.


This is a very unusual-looking type of sushi if you have never come across it. It is, basically, fish that has been fermented for months or even years in rice and salt. It is a very old dish, going back to the Nara era of Japanese history.

Image source: Twitter

Narezushi is something of an acquired taste due to its pungent smell and flavor. And yet before it takes so long to prepare it is a very expensive dish.


Oshizushi is pressed or boxed sushi.

Image source: Cooking With Dog

This layered sushi that has angular shapes (square, rectangle, or triangle) is usually topped with gizzard shad or mackerel although bamboo or leaves are used for mostly decoratively purposes.

Oshizushi is a popular component of bento boxes.

Other sushi types beyond Nigiri that are worth knowing about are Sasazuhi, Kakinoha-shi, Temari, Chirashizuski, and Inari-zushi. What do you think will be the next craze?

More from Juan Ramos, MA

Do Bed Bugs Fly, Jump And Itch?

Unfortunately, bed bugs are not a thing of the past for many...
Read More
Opinions expressed are solely the authors and do not express the views or opinions of Science Trends nor the author's institution.
Cite this article as:
Juan Ramos, MA. What Is Nigiri?, Science Trends, 2018. Available at:
*Note, DOIs are registered Friday weekly and therefore may not work until then.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *