Everything You Need to Know About Nigiri

Have you decided to try out sushi? How exciting to venture into new culinary delights. Although this journey should be enlivening, a look at a sushi menu may have you noticing many terms you are unfamiliar with including Norimaki, Sashimi, and Nigiri, among others, making your first sushi choice a bit challenging. Because there are many options when it comes to sushi, you can always inquire with your server on specific menu items. However, if you want some knowledge before you head over to a sushi restaurant here is the rundown on the Japanese mainstay, Nigiri. 

Sushi Related Terms Defined

Before we delve into what Nigiri or Nigirizushi is all about, we need to define a few words that are commonly used when discussing sushi. Sushi and sashimi themselves are often misinterpreted. Most believe sushi implies raw fish when it can be quite the contrary. Many restaurants offer sushi with cooked fish. Sushi itself refers to foods that incorporate vinegared rice and does not have to be rolled or encased in seaweed to be considered sushi. Sashimi, on the other hand, is raw fish thinly sliced and is the most popular ingredient in sushi. 

Norimaki is simply sushi rolled in a thin sheet of seaweed, called Nori, while Nigiri is a formed ball or mound of sticky vinegared rice with a strip of fish pressed to the top. This type of sushi is often eaten with fingers instead of chopsticks. Now that we have defined these terms let’s take a look at where this type of sushi comes from.

The History of Nigiri

Originating in China between the 5th and 3rd centuries BC, sushi was a method of preserving fish in salt. This first form of sushi was referred to as narezushi and took months to prepare. Over time, the process was sped up by the addition of rice vinegar to freshly made rice, however, it still required hours to make sushi in pressed wooden boxes. Dissatisfied with this process the 19th-century sushi chef, Hanaya Yohei, took to improving Nigiri and is credited for creating Nigiri as is known today. The fresh flavor of his sushi was favored over the traditional fermented taste and became popular in 1824 when Chef Yohei began selling Nigiri. Eventually, it made its way around the globe where it remains a favorite.

 How to Prepare Nigiri

The skills to properly make Nigiri can take a lifetime to master, so many leave its preparation to a professional sushi chef. While chef-made sushi will be far superior to homemade, there are many recipes one can use to make this dish at home. Note that ingredients may vary between recipes, including sushi toppings. There are also a variety of techniques for forming the rice ball or dome. When creating the rice for this type of sushi, you may come across terms when describing the method, such as Yokotegaeshi (Side Hand Flip), Kotegaeshi (Wrist Flip), Tategaeshi (Vertical Flip), Hontegaeshi (Original Hand Flip). If you do not feel confident in mastering these movements, there are also Nigiri sushi molds that you can press the rice into the necessary shape.

With your new-found knowledge of Nigiri, you can go forth and order from the menu with confidence or test your skills out in the kitchen and make Nigiri at home. We hope sharing this information will be helpful along your sushi journey.