Your Sushi Menu Explained

May 2, 2022

Going out for sushi with friends or family is as fun and collaborative as a meal can get. Ordering a mix of sushi types allows you to sample – and share – a whole range of delicious options. And if you find yourself still wanting more, it’s always easy to add just one more piece to the order – so you’ll never feel too stuffed. Sushi is a light, fresh, nuanced dining experience with something for everyone to love.

All that said, sitting down with a sushi menu can be an overwhelming experience. Knowing where to start – and what you’ll like – isn’t always obvious. There are many different options, forms, styles and names to navigate. We’ve put together a quick guide to help you get started. By knowing the basics, you’ll be tasting, trying, savoring and enjoying your way through a sushi menu and meal in no time! 

What is sushi?

Sushi is often mistaken for simply being raw fish. This isn’t the case. The actual translation is ‘vinegar rice’ which is the main component. The vinegar rice is most often accompanied by raw fish, but sushi can include different combinations of meat, raw fish, cooked fish, seaweed or vegetables. Vegetarian sushi is as popular as ever these days. And sushi is nutritious, low in fat, and full of nuanced and delectable flavors. 


Sashimi is the name for a popular style of thinly sliced raw fish (or meat, veg or tofu) served on its own – this time without any rice. So technically, without the vinegar rice, it’s really not sushi at all. It is a seemingly simple dish that very much depends on the expertise and skills of a great sushi chef to prepare and present it in the right way. Sashimi’s taste can be effected by the nature even of how it is sliced!


When sushi contains sashimi, it becomes nigiri. A long mound of vinegar rice with a slice of fresh, raw fish on top. A ton of options exist for nigiri. Some of the most popular are salmon, tuna, shrimp or octopus. For those trying nigiri for the first time, salmon can be a great place to start.


Maki is the name for a roll. Seaweed is usually wrapped around the outside, with the same contents as nigiri on the inside. The most common maki styles are tekkamaki (a single main ingredient plus rice) and futomaki (multiple ingredients inside), when a long roll is formed by the sushi chef, then chopped into smaller bite size pieces to be served. Another maki style is temaki (“a hand roll”), where the contents are hand rolled into a cone of seaweed that can be held and eaten in many bites. The “California Roll” is popular in the US, where the rice makes up the outer wrap, with the seaweed one layer in.

The Extras

Sushi is almost always served with a dollop of wasabi, a handful of pickled ginger, and a shirokinyo (dipping dish) for shoyu (Japanese soy sauce). 

Wasabi is a Japanese horseradish that is used lightly to add heat and enhance sushi flavors. Sushi chefs usually apply a touch of it to most nigiri before serving. Keep in mind that good, fresh wasabi can be pretty hot, so take care when you try it for the first time! Less may be more until you figure out the right amount for your taste. While it’s no longer the case, it might interest you to know that wasabi was originally used also to fight bacteria in raw fish.

The pickled ginger is a fresh, tasty palette cleanser, meant to be eaten between bites of one type of sushi to the next, to clear the way for the next uniquely delectable taste experience!

And then there’s the shoyu! Good shoyu should enhance – never mask – flavors. Our Yamasa shoyu is a favorite of some of the best Chefs in the world, loved for its unique ability to enhance and complement the deliciously nuanced flavors of sashimi and sushi ingredients.

Try our zuke-don recipe this week for a delicious, marinated tuna sashimi!

Going out for sushi with friends or family is as fun and collaborative as a meal can get. Ordering a mix of sushi types allows you to sample – and share – a whole range of delicious options.
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