The common ingredient in all the different kinds of sushi is sushi rice (simply sushi in Japanese). Variety arises in the choice of the fillings and toppings, the other condiments, and in the manner they are put together. The same ingredients may be assembled in various different ways, traditional and contemporary.
- Nigiri-zushi (握り寿司, lit. hand-formed sushi). Arguably the most typical form of sushi at restaurants, it consists of an oblong mound of sushi rice which is pressed between the palms of the hands, with a speck of wasabi and a thin slice of a topping (neta) draped over it, possibly bound with a thin band of nori. Assembling nigiri-zushi is surprisingly difficult to do well. It is sometimes called Edomaezushi, which reflects its origins in Edo (present-dayTokyo) in the 18th century. It is often served two to an order.
- Gunkan-maki (軍艦巻, lit. warship roll). A special type of nigiri-zushi: an oval, hand-formed clump of sushi rice (similar to that of nigiri-zushi) that has a strip of nori wrapped around its perimeter to form a vessel that is filled with the topping. The topping is typically some soft ingredient that requires the confinement of the nori, for example, roe, natto, or (a contemporary fusion) macaroni salad. The gunkan-maki was invented at Kyubei restaurant (est. 1932) in Ginza and its invention significantly expanded the repertoire of soft toppings used in sushi.
- Makizushi (巻き寿司, lit. rolled sushi). A cylindrical piece, formed with the help of a bamboo mat, called a makisu. Makizushi is generally wrapped in nori, a sheet of dried pressed laver (a kind of seaweed) that encloses the rice and fillings, but can occasionally be found wrapped in a thin omelette. Makizushi is usually cut into six or eight pieces, which constitute an order.
- Futomaki (太巻き, lit. large or fat rolls). A large cylindrical piece, with the nori on the outside. Typical futomaki are three or four centimeters diameter. They are often made with two or three fillings, chosen for their complementary taste and color. During the Setsubun festival, it is traditional in Kansai to eat the uncut futomaki in its cylindrical form.
- Hosomaki (細巻き, lit. thin rolls). A small cylindrical piece, with the nori on the outside. Typical hosomaki are about two centimeters thick and two centimeters wide. They are generally made with only one filling.
- Kappamaki, a kind of hosomaki filled with cucumber, is named after the Japanese legendary water imp fond of cucumbers, the kappa (河童).
- Tekkamaki (鉄火巻き) is a kind of hosomaki filled with tuna. “Tekka” (鉄火) is a Japanese casino and also describes hot iron, which has a color similar to the red tuna flesh.
- Uramaki (裏巻き, lit. inside-out rolls). A medium-sized cylindrical piece, with two or more fillings. Uramaki differ from other maki because the rice is on the outside and the nori within. The filling is in the center surrounded by a liner of nori, then a layer of rice, and an outer coating of some other ingredient such as roe or toasted sesame seeds. Typically thought of as an invention to suit the American palate, uramaki is not commonly seen in Japan. The California roll is a popular form of uramaki. The increased popularity of sushi in North America, as well as around the world, has resulted in numerous different kinds of uramaki and regional off-shoots being created. Regional types include the B.C. roll (salmon) and Philadelphia roll (cream cheese).
- The dynamite roll includes prawn tempura.
- The rainbow roll features sashimi layered outside the rice.
- The spider roll includes fried soft shell crab.
- Other rolls include scallops, spicy tuna, beef or chicken teriyaki, okra, vegetarian, and cheese. Brown rice and black rice rolls have also appeared.
- Temaki (手巻き, lit. hand rolls). A large cone-shaped piece, with the nori on the outside and the ingredients spilling out the wide end. A typical temaki is about ten centimeters long, and is eaten with the fingers since it is too awkward to pick up with chopsticks.
- Inari-zushi (稲荷寿司, stuffed sushi). A pouch of fried tofu filled usually with just sushi rice. It is named after the Shinto god Inari, whose messenger, the fox, is believed to have a fondness for fried tofu. The pouch is normally fashioned from deep-fried tofu (油揚げ or abura age). Regional variations include pouches made of a thin omelet (帛紗寿司 (hukusa-zushi) or 茶巾寿司 (chakin-zushi)) or dried gourd shavings (干瓢 or kanpyo).
- Oshizushi (押し寿司, lit. pressed sushi). A block-shaped piece formed using a wooden mold, called an oshibako. The chef lines the bottom of the oshibako with the topping, covers it with sushi rice, and presses the lid of the mold down to create a compact, rectilinear block. The block is removed from the mold and cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Chirashizushi (ちらし寿司, lit. scattered sushi). A bowl of sushi rice with the other ingredients mixed in. Also referred to as barazushi.
- Edomae chirashizushi (Edo-style scattered sushi) Uncooked ingredients artfully arranged on top of the rice in the bowl.
- Gomokuzushi (Kansai-style sushi). Cooked or uncooked ingredients mixed in the body of the rice in the bowl.
Narezushi (old style fermented sushi)
- Narezushi (熟れ寿司, lit. matured sushi) is an older form of sushi. Skinned and gutted fish are stuffed with salt then placed in a wooden barrel, doused with salt again, and weighed down with a heavy tsukemonoishi (pickling stone). They are salted for ten days to a month, then placed in water for 15 minutes to an hour. They are then placed in another barrel, sandwiched, and layered with cooled steamed rice and fish. Then this mixture is again partially sealed with otosibuta and a pickling stone. As days pass, water seeps out, which must be removed. Six months later, this funazush can be eaten, and it remains edible for another six months or more.