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Think you know the difference between a hosomaki, futomaki, and uramaki?

Who doesn’t love sushi? A Japanese staple anchored on sushi rice (a type of medium-grain white rice) that has been thoroughly seasoned with vinegar, salt, and sugar to produce a somewhat sticky, mouldable base, sushi encompasses a colourful array of dishes opening a world of flavours to be discovered. Although typically associated with raw fish like salmon, unagi, squid, and uni, sushi also extends to preparations with beef, vegetables, and even eggs like tamago/tamagoyaki (a Japanese omelette).

Brush up on the differences between the many classifications of sushi here:

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1. Sashimi

Since sashimi doesn’t actually have any rice, sashimi technically doesn’t fall under the umbrella of sushi. As the most basic category on the list, sashimi simply refers to fresh, raw fish (or, on occasion, meat), sliced thin and typically enjoyed with soy sauce and wasabi.

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2. Nigiri

In terms of complexity, nigiri sushi is just one step up from sashimi: simply raw fish (or the meat/topping of choice) laid over a rounded, elongated mound of sushi rice. Typically, sushi chefs will already dab some wasabi between the fish and the rice and, in exceptional cases, may even dress the fish with soy sauce themselves. At times, nigiri may also have a thin ribbon of nori (dried seaweed) running across the fish and rice to ensure more secure adhesion.

While using chopsticks to enjoy nigiri sushi has become a popular practice, the traditional practice would entail picking up the nigiri with clean hands and consuming it in one bite. Furthermore, should you opt to dip the nigiri in soy sauce, it is recommended that you dip the nigiri fish side down so as not to break apart the sushi rice or over-saturate it with the sauce.

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3. Hosomaki

The thinnest of the sushi rolls, hosomaki comprises only one filling, be it fish, meat, tamago, or even vegetables like cucumber. As a type of maki (sushi roll), hosomaki involves rolling the filling of choice in sushi rice and a sheet of nori using a woven bamboo mat called a makisu.

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4. Futomaki

Whereas hosomaki literally translates to “thin sushi roll,” the far thicker futomaki aptly translates to “fat sushi roll.” Here, the filling typically comprises of a variety of fish, vegetables, tamago, and/or meat, resulting in a bigger sushi roll. When preparing the futomaki, the orientation of the nori on the makisu runs opposite to how it would when preparing hosomaki so as to create a roll that is wider, but shorter.

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5. Uramaki

Unlike the hosomaki and futomaki, which have the nori as the outermost part of the roll, uramaki is inside-out, with the rice on the exterior. Generally speaking, the outer layer of rice will get a sprinkling of sesame seeds, fish roe, togarashi, or some other decorative topping like a thin slice of sashimi.

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6. Temaki

Temaki, which literally means “hand roll sushi,” is a cone-shaped maki designed to be eaten with your hands. Unlike other forms of maki, temaki is not sliced into smaller discs. Rather, you’re meant to hold the temaki in one hand and eat it from the top down, starting with the opening of the cone.

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7. Gunkan

The smallest of the maki family, gunkan is designed to be eaten in one bite—attempt to bite halfway, and the fillings on top of the rice will likely spill out. Wrapped in nori, the oval-shaped sushi resembles Japanese battleships, which is where its name comes from. This style of sushi is most popular with soft and/or loose fillings like ikura or uni, as the walls of the nori prevent them from going overboard. However, gunkan with small chunks of salmon or tuna are also common.

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8. Inari

Similar in shape and size to the gunkan is inari, a distinct style of sushi where the sushi rice is stuffed inside a piece of inari age—a golden brown pouch of deep-fried tofu—flipped so the opening of the pouch faces upwards, and then filled with an assortment of loose toppings, similar to gunkan. However, inari sushi may also be enjoyed without the added toppings, as the inari age packs a delicious sweet-savoury flavour on its own.

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9. Chirashi

Last but certainly not least is the chirashi or “scattered” sushi. As its name suggests, chirashi is an assortment of fish, vegetables, tamago, and/or meat scattered over a bed of seasoned sushi rice. The largest of the sushi dishes, chirashi sushi boasts an eye-catching presentation and can easily act as a centrepiece dish for any special occasion.

While the terms are commonly used interchangeably, chirashi don tends to refer to a smaller and more casual preparation, set for one diner, whereas chirashi sushi may point to a large-scale format to share and is more aesthetically intricate.


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