Sushi Dictionary

A comprehensive guide to sushi descriptions. If you love your sushi, but are never too sure what you’re odering, our glossary is here to lift the lid on sushi jargon.

Sushi Dictionary

With all foreign foods there are words used to describe dishes that we probably don’t understand, which make ordering difficult, and which leave us not really sure what we’re eating. Japanese cuisine in particular, is filled with foreign terms: maki, sake, teriyaki! So, to put an end to any confusion, iLoveMyGrub have put together a basic list that is sushi vocab.

First, what is sushi? The word sushi is a combination of the word ‘*su*’, meaning vinegar, and ‘me*shi*’, meaning rice. The literal meaning of sushi therefore is rice with vinegar. However, the term ‘sushi’ has become a generic term that refers to all bite-sized pieces of this type of rice, with fish or tofu etc. 

**Types of sushi:**

  • *Inari *sushi: This is a pouch of fried tofu, called an aburage, filled with rice. ‘Inari’ is the name of a Japanese god, or spirit, and the term ‘inari’ is used for fried tofu because there are various associations between this god and fried tofu. Inari sushi is often given as an offering at Inari shrines.


  • *Maki *sushi: These are the quintessential sushi rolls that are cut into little bite-sized pieces. There are various types of maki. Futomaki are large pieces of sushi with seaweed (nori) on outside. Hosomaki are smaller pieces, also with nori on the outside. Uramaki are larger rolls which have rice on the outside and nori rolled inside.


  • *Nigiri *sushi: This is little individually made little blocks of compressed rice, which are topped with wasabi and a slice of fish, usually raw. Maki and Nigiri are the most common types of sushi available in the UK, and if you buy a box of sushi in the supermarket it will tend to have these types inside.


  • *Temaki *sushi: These are another style of sushi roll similar to maki, but rather than a long roll that has been cut into smaller pieces, these are larger conical rolls, which are likely to have the ingredients spilling out of the wider end.


Other types of sushi, less common in the UK, are *chirashi *sushi and *oshi *sushi. Chirashi means ‘scattered’, and chirashi sushi is sushi rice in a bowl with fish scattered on top. Oshi sushi is sushi rice compressed into a box shape, larger that nigiri.


**Other dishes you might see on Japanese restaurant menus:**

  • *Gyoza*: This is a wonton, or dumpling, like those you might see on a Chinese dim sum menu. Like with Chinese wontons, gyoza are either boiled, steamed, or fried.


  • *Korokke*: This is made by mixing mashed potato or white sauce with another ingredient to give flavour, such as pumpkin, or prawn. This mix is then rolled in breadcrumbs and fried, like a French croquette.


  • *Katsu*: Katsu tends to be breaded pork, but can be breaded chicken, even salmon etc. Katsu is usually served as part of the dish katsu curry (katsu karÄ“), but you do sometimes find katsu chicken / katsu prawns etc inside pieces of maki sushi.


  • *Mochi*: This is a dessert dish. Mochi is glutionous rice, and mochi dishes tend to be little hollowed-out balls of mochi, that have been filled with either bean curd of ice cream or ganache of some sort.


  • *Sashimi*: This is pieces of raw fish fillet, without the sushi rice.


  • *Tamago*: This is a sweet omelette, but it is not eaten as a dessert.


  • *Tataki*: These dishes are partially cooked, seared on the outside, like Italian carpaccio.


  • *Tempura*: Tempura dishes are deep-fried in batter. It can be deep-fried fish or vegetables.


  • *Teriyaki*: This term refers to the cooking technique rather than directly to the flavour. With teriyaki dishes, meat or fish is marinated in a sweet soy sauce (which gets referred to as teriyaki sauce), and is then grilled.


**Other ingredients you might see on Japanese menus, and other sushi jargon:**

  • *Bento*: This is a single, mixed portion of sushi and/or other Japanese foodstuffs. You can order a bento box in a restaurant sometimes, and it is a common form of having takeaway Japanese food.


  • *Miso*: This is a paste made out of soy beans. There are different types of miso: red and white. It is used in many Japanese dishes, both sweet and savoury.


  • *Nori*: This is the name for the seaweed that maki and temaki are wrapped in.


  • *Tofu*: Tofu is also made out of soy beans, but is a bean curd. It can take many forms, and like miso, is used in both sweet and savoury dishes.


  • *Sake*: This is a rice wine which can be served either hot or cold, usually depending on the quality. A potential point of confusion: ‘sake’ also means salmon. To refer to salmon, the word should be pronounced ‘sah-kee’. To refer to the drink, it should be pronounced ‘sah-keh’.


  • *Wasabi*: With a taste much like extra-strong horseradish, wasabi is a green paste made of the ground up roots of a plant in the same family as horseradish.


**Written by: **Emily Boyd