Not all kinds of food are for everyone! A lot of people are also scared to try sushi, one of those at-first-glance-strange foods, because they instantly associate it with raw fish and other unknown ingredients.
It is true that a lot of times you either love it or you hate it, but did you know there are a ton of different types of sushi and not all of them have raw fish as part of the creation?
You can get options that have things like fried shrimp and some sushi can even be made without meat, as the base of this dish is rice.
So what does sushi taste like? While there are many different kinds of sushi depending on the ingredients used, most sushi has a refreshing, clean seafood flavor. Sushi is often accompanied by soy sauce and wasabi, so with these additional flavors, it can be a little saltier and spicy.
In this guide, we will walk you through what sushi tastes like.
We will talk about the different things like flavors and textures but also discuss how the different types of sushi and the different ingredients used can alter the flavors. Keep in mind there are a lot of variables here.
Keep reading to learn what sushi tastes like and more!
What Does Sushi Taste Like?
Sushi is a traditional dish that heralds from Japan. The base ingredients in sushi are simple rice, sugar, and salt. Those ingredients are then built on with raw fish, seafood, and a variety of vegetables.
The ingredients are then all rolled up in a long roll and then cut into slices.
While sushi may have fish or other forms of seafood, it does not typically have an overly fishy taste to it.
It can host a variety of flavors and can be spicy or simple. Some sushi creators even deep fry their sushi, giving you a whole new host of flavors and textures as well.
Sushi is often found in high demand and is a pretty popular specialty dish.
It is true that you typically either love it or hate it but there is a lot of misperceptions around the dish so it is a good idea to really dig into the different types and flavors.
Different Types of Sushi
Since there are so many different types of sushi, we felt like covering the majority of sushi options would help you understand fully that the flavors can vastly differ.
Remember that the ingredients in sushi can change and therefore the flavors will also be different across the board.
While we certainly can’t discuss every single rendition of sushi out there, we can talk about the primary types of sushi and how they differ accordingly.
This seems like the best way to really be able to describe to you how they taste and what types of flavors and textures you can expect from each one.
Here are the main types of sushi you will find:
In addition, there is also sashimi, which is not considered sushi but is very similar to sushi. We will talk a moment about sashimi as well.
Within each of these categories, the flavors and ingredients can still vary but this will give you a good general idea of what to expect.
If you’re scared that you’re going to end up eating raw fish, look for a sushi option that has tempura. Tempura is a type of fried shrimp, which means the seafood is cooked.
If you’re ordering sushi at a restaurant, always check out their list of what is in each option to know what you are getting specifically.
Temaki is a unique type of sushi that actually comes cone-shaped. The nori exterior is wrapped differently to create the cone, rather than a cylinder when the sushi is rolled up.
The appearance makes a difference in this particular sushi-style.
Temaki has more nori in it than most other sushi types, giving it a more pronounced umami flavor.
If you are not familiar with nori, that is the seaweed wrapping that the sushi is rolled in that holds all of the interior ingredients together. Since temaki uses slightly more nori (or seaweed), it does adjust the flavor slightly.
Temaki isn’t sliced quite like your traditional sushi rolls, it’s actually a full handheld roll, in that cone shape instead.
It’s almost like a wrap that is contained within nori. The internal ingredients of temaki can vary but it is traditionally made with some sort of fish in the center.
This type of sushi roll is usually eaten with your hands and fingers rather than chopsticks because it is larger than traditional sushi slices from a roll and can be very challenging to balance and manage with chopsticks.
The cone does have other traditional fillings, such as your normal rice. The other fillings can vary with a variety of meats and vegetables. You may find that it has raw fish or cooked fish, depending on what you elect as the core flavors.
Some common meat options include salmon roe, salmon, tuna, spicy tuna, and more.
Chirashi is sushi but it is very similar to sashimi. This rendition of sushi is raw fish that is completely covered by rice.
They typically use approximately nine ingredients to create chirashi and if raw fish is something you’re not fond of, this may be one to avoid.
The type of fish used can be changed so you could elect for a fish that isn’t quite as oily as others, which might reduce the fishiness just a bit.
This could also reduce the raw texture if that is something you are concerned about.
Chirashi is usually served in a bowl, rather than a roll like most sushi options. The bowl contains quite a bit of rice and then is topped with a mixture of vegetables, as well as the raw fish that is chosen for the dish.
Since this is not a roll, the texture will be different and it is more comparable to a rice bowl.
The fish that is used can certainly vary.
If you prefer a lighter fish flavor or you don’t want the oily, raw texture to be as heavy, you could try fish like tuna, red snapper, or even squid to help with a lighter flavor and/or texture as part of the sushi dish.
Inari sushi is a completely different variety than what most people picture as sushi. It’s a unique style that is served in a roll like traditional sushi typically is.
This dish uses sushi rice and stuffs it into bean curds that are deep-fried together to make a pocket for the rice.
This sushi is interesting because it’s most similar to sushi rolls but the deep-fried bean curds are almost like an open little pocket. The rice is mixed with vinegar and then the pockets of rice are topped with other sushi toppings and fillings.
This can include vegetables as well as raw fish but it can also include cooked fish or something like shrimp instead. Some people refer to the inari as a tofu pocket, rather than the bean curd but it’s primarily the same thing.
These can also be made as total pouches or rolls and sliced up just like other sushi rolls as well. This is a popular sushi option and a lot of people really enjoy the different textures and the different flavors that the outer layer provides.
It’s also nice because this option can use cooked meat and change it up. These commonly have ingredients like mushrooms and carrots added to them as well for color and flavor.
Maki sushi is probably what you’re most used to seeing. When you see the sushi rolls that are wrapped in seaweed and contain any variety of ingredients, these are maki. Maki can be made with a lot of different flavors and options.
Maki can have cooked fish or options like tempura as well. You will find that some rolls combine meats and use crab meat as well as fish or shrimp. These are very versatile and can have different meats.
The different meat will change the flavors so that is something to keep in mind. The traditional ingredients include some form of meat as well as rice, cucumber, nori, avocado, sesame, and sushi rice.
Sometimes they may have some other additions or variations but this is the basic makeup. Your overall flavor will depend on the meat used.
These sushi rolls are traditionally served with wasabi and soy sauce and you can use one, both, or neither as you prefer.
While maki is like the traditional sushi we all know and love, remember that you can vary the ingredients. Most of the base ingredients are constant but the amount of them might be altered.
For example, one might have less cucumber or more cucumber while one might have more avocado or less.
Ultimately, it is the meat used that will make a difference here and you can choose raw meat, cooked meat, or something more like crab or shrimp if you prefer those flavors.
Nigiri is a sushi roll that is very similar to sashimi. This type of sushi is a roll like traditional sushi you think of when you picture sushi. They make it with vinegary rice and then a thin slice of raw fish.
This is a raw fish type of sushi and they do not typically substitute cooked meat here so you can expect the raw flavors and the raw textures to be at play.
The most common types of raw fish for this particular type of sushi are salmon, halibut, and bluefish tuna.
This type of sushi is one of the most popular sushi options within Japan and is pretty popular overall. The raw fish is laid on top of the other ingredients, rather than rolled into everything.
This can be spiced up or flavored differently as well so the overall tastes of the dish could vary.
Sushi and sashimi are often thought to be the same thing. However, sashimi is slightly different, which is why we want to talk about it here. Sashimi is made with raw fish, usually salmon or tuna.
However, they also sometimes use shrimp, scallops, clams, octopus, yellowtail, or mackerel as well.
Where sushi is really a dish based on the rice that might include cooked meats or raw fish, sashimi is really all about the raw fish and then has rice added to it. It is not a roll usually.
The basis of sashimi is the raw fish that is used. From there, it typically is laid over a small portion of rice, typically sushi rice. It may have some sort of topping or addition to it as well to add different flavors or spice.
With this option, you definitely get the flavor and texture of raw fish as the primary piece of the dish.
We hope that you find this guide to understanding the flavors, textures, and tastes of sushi to be a valuable resource. Remember there are many variables that can affect the taste.
We invite you to take a look at some common questions with answers below for some additional information that may be useful.
Does sushi have raw fish?
Sushi can have raw fish but it is not a requirement.
There are many types of sushi that traditionally use raw fish but you will also find there are several options that include cooked meat or even shrimp instead of some other type of fish.
Sashimi, on the other hand, is always made with raw fish. There are also types of sushi that are designed to mirror sashimi, like Nigiri.
What is the best sushi for beginners?
If you’re unsure about where to start, you can start simple and then move forward if you get brave. Try something like a Philadelphia roll, which has salmon, avocado, and cream cheese, or our recipe for a Boston roll.
You can also try a spicy tuna roll or a California roll if you want to start small. Remember to check out the ingredients and look for tempura if you prefer cooked shrimp meat in your sushi.
Do you eat sushi in one bite?
Traditionally, sushi and sashimi are both designed to be eaten in a single bite. In most restaurants, the chef cuts them according to size.
Regardless, it will probably still be a mouthful but taking the whole piece or slice as one bite is the best way to enjoy the whole flavor the way it is intended to be enjoyed.
How do you eat sushi?
If you want to do it right, follow these steps!
- Use chopsticks or just your hand to pick up one piece of sushi.
- Tip the part with fish in soy sauce and add wasabi to the top if you like (both are optional).
- Place the entire piece of sushi in your mouth at one time, with the fish side touching your tongue.
- Finish with a piece of pickled ginger to cleanse your palate.
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