Want to learn more about Sushi? Read articles about the making of Sushi and facts about Sushi.

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What are the Different Types of Sushi?

El Pollo Loco sushi roll example of uramaki sushi

Osaka’s El Pollo Loco Sushi Roll

Japanese cuisine is now mainstream and wildly popular throughout this country and much of the world. However, whether you’re a seasoned sushi connoisseur or a novice looking to order your first roll, terms on Japanese restaurant menus can be confusing. From nigiri to maki, here’s a rundown on the different varieties of sushi you may encounter in Japanese sushi restaurants.

Different Types of Sushi

Simply put, the term sushi in Japanese cuisine describes any dish prepared with vinegared rice. This distinctive and specially prepared sushi rice is combined with a variety of other ingredients. Raw seafood is the most recognized sushi ingredient. However, sushi is also prepared with cooked seafood, vegetables, egg, tropical fruit, and even meat. Sushi is commonly served with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi (Japanese horseradish).

Sushi was originally prepared by street vendors as a snack food. The bite size pieces were perfect for eating on the go. As sushi rapidly grew in popularity and spread across Japan, different varieties were introduced. Now, sushi-making is an entire art in itself, with hundreds of different varieties of sushi available around the world. But these will all fall into several main categories that you can recognize anywhere you go.

Maki

Maki, or makizushi, literally translates to “rolled sushi”. It is what most people envision when the word “sushi” is mentioned. The tube-shaped rolls are created using a bamboo mat referred to as a makisu. Maki is generally wrapped in seaweed (nori), but the seaweed is occasionally replaced by cucumber, soy paper, or shiso leaves. Rice is located directly inside the wrapping, and the filling is in the center. Maki rolls are usually cut into six or eight pieces.

8 piece futomaki sushi roll on a plate

Maki can be broken down into even more specific types:

  • Futomaki – Futomaki translates to “large, thick, or fat rolls”. Like the name suggests, futomaki sushi rolls are wide (usually 2 to 2.5 inches in diameter). They are filled with multiple fillings, and seaweed is usually on the very outside.
  • Hosomaki – Conversely, hosomaki means “thin roll”. These maki rolls have one filling, surrounded by rice and seaweed. Tuna and cucumber are some popular fillings in hosomaki sushi. Due to the convenient, bite-sized pieces, hosomakizushi is a popular snack item in Japan.
  • Temaki – Temaki means “hand roll”. Temaki is a cone-shaped piece of seaweed filled with ingredients that spill out of the wide end of the roll. Temaki is eaten by hand and should be consumed relatively quickly, as the seaweed absorbs moisture from the inside ingredients and becomes soggy.
  • Uramaki – Uramaki translates to “inside-out roll”. This Westernized sushi variety differs from traditional maki in that the seaweed is inside the roll and rice is on the outside. The common California Roll is an example of uramaki sushi. In Japan, where sushi is traditionally eaten by hand, this maki variety is rather uncommon.

Nigiri

Osaka tokujyo nigiri

Osaka Tokujyo Nigiri

Nigiri, or nigirizushi, means “hand-pressed roll”. It is the most traditional sushi type. Nigiri consists of an elongated mound of sushi rice that has been hand pressed by the chef. The mound of rice is then draped with a single topping. Some common toppings are tuna (maguro), salmon (sake), octopus (tako), freshwater eel (unagi), and egg (tamago). A small amount of wasabi is oftentimes placed under the topping. In most restaurants, including Osaka Japanese Bistro, one order of nigiri is two pieces.

Gunkanmaki is a type of nigirizushi that has a piece of seaweed surrounding the perimeter. This strip of seaweed helps contain a loose or soft topping, such as sea urchin (uni) or salmon roe (ikura).

Chirashi

Chirashi bowl fresh seafood in ricebowl

Osaka Chirashi Bowl

Chirashi, or chirashizushi, means “scattered sushi”. It is a bowl filled with sushi rice and a variety of different toppings. Toppings generally include raw fish and vegetables. Chirashi sushi is popular in Japan, because it is filling and comparatively easy to prepare.

Sashimi

Osaka sashimi platter of fresh sliced fish arranged in beautiful display

Osaka Sashimi Plate

While not technically sushi, sashimi is on most Japanese menus near the sushi. Sashimi is simply fresh, raw fish or meat cut into thin slices. Sashimi is not served directly with rice, but it is often served over a garnishment, such as shredded white radish (daikon) and/or shredded carrot. Like sushi, sashimi is eaten with soy sauce and wasabi. While it is considered appropriate to eat sushi by hand, it is proper to eat sashimi with chopsticks. There is a lot to know about sushi, as there is about Japanese cuisine, but with some basic knowledge you’ll be able to find your way through just about any sushi menu.

Find the Best Sushi at Osaka Japanese Bistro in Las Vegas

Osaka Japanese Bistro was the first Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas. Based on authentic Japanese recipes and never compromising quality, we have become the largest sushi-maker in Las Vegas, serving everyone from our guests in our restaurants in Las Vegas and Henderson as well as many of the food buffets up and down the Las Vegas Strip. With our award winning chefs and large selection of sushi, including maki, chirashi, nigiri and sashimi, you could say we know sushi.  Stop by Osaka today and enjoy the best fresh sushi in town.

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Sushi Etiquette in Las Vegas

Japanese Table Manners

Before you visit a sushi restaurant in Las Vegas, prepare to enjoy a truly authentic experience by learning a few basic traditional Japanese table manners. This is one way to deepen your understanding of the rich Japanese culture related to dining and eating sushi. And, it is also a whole lot of fun!

Tatami Room Experience

If you can find a sushi bistro that serves food on a tatami floor instead of at a Western style dinner table, tatami room at Osaka Japanese Bistro in Las Vegasgo there. You will immediately feel more immersed in the experience. There are certain things to keep in mind with a tatami floor: Take off your shoes before you step into the general eating area, and make sure that you do not step on any cushion except the one that you will be sitting on.

Before Eating Sushi

Before you put anything in your mouth (yes, even the sake), clean your hands with the wet towel, known as an oshibori, provided by your server. Everyone should order before anyone touches any of the appetizers. Every meal begins with the Japanese phrase, “I gratefully receive,” pronounced itadakimasu.

If someone must eat right away before everyone at the table has been properly served, then that person Sushi chef offering a plate of sushi over the bar at Osaka Japanese Bistro Las Vegasshould not eat until the other people at the table say “please go ahead” or osaki ni dozo to that person.

Sushi Bowls and Dishes

Small bowls should be picked up and held close to the mouth. Large bowls and plates should not be lifted in this manner. When you are eating from shared dishes, use the opposite end of your chopsticks when you want to pick up or move food.

Drinking in a Japanese Restaurant

Japanese drinking etiquette means that no one starts drinking until everyone starts drinking in a salute, which resembles a toast. When you are drinking alcoholic beverages, then you should serve each other and never pour your own drink for yourself. Serve friends drinks as their cups empty.

Japanese Table Manners

soft shell crab dipping chopsticks

It is unacceptable to chew with your mouth open, audibly chew, burp or blow your nose at the table. If you must do these things, it is better to excuse yourself from the table completely and visit the restroom.

Should I Finish My Sushi?

Unlike Western society, it is good manners to finish every last morsel of your food in Japanese culture. If you know that there will be items on the menu that you cannot eat, you should request a substitute at the beginning of the meal. If you are surprised by a dish, then it is more polite to touch none of the dish than to eat some of it.

After Finishing your Japanese Meal
chopsticks in wrapper atop plate on table at Osaka Japanese Bistro in Las Vegas

Your setup should look the same after the meal as it does before the meal. Return every dish to its

starting position, including putting all of the lids back on the serving dishes that you use. Your

chopsticks should end up back in their paper holders or on the specialized chopstick resting area.

After finishing the meal, the phrase “thank you for the feast,” pronounced gochisosama deshita, is appropriate to say to the cook.

At local’s long-time favorite Osaka Japanese Bistro in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, we serve a broad menu of authentic Japanese cuisine in an authentic atmosphere, including tatami room, sushi bar or teppanyaki experience.

Sushi: The Art of Simplicity

Potatoes, grains, corn/maize, all food staples that meet the basic needs of nutrition for millions of people around the world. While a bowl of rice may not be as appealing as filet mignon, and is often associated with poverty, when artfully combined with fish and seaweed by a trained master, even the well-to-do will enjoy it. Sushi is among the simplest foods available, consisting generally of raw fish, rice, seaweed, and occasionally sauces or vegetables added in. It is this simplicity that many find appealing, and it is rare that such a simple food option is also healthy to eat!

Salmon Nigiri Sushi

As any of our Osaka chefs know, sushi is an art form, simple to learn, difficult to master. What may look like just another California roll to you is in fact the masterpiece of a trained Itamae, or sushi chef. It takes years upon years of training to become an itamae, turning the food staples of fish, seaweed, and rice into a delicacy that’s loved worldwide. Even the simplest part of the dish- the rice, isn’t so simple. An apprentice sushi chef is first trained in properly preparing rice, which must be made to a very specific consistency, and the apprentice must be able to prove they are able to do this each and every time.

Rice preparation is just the beginning, however, and an apprentice’s journey is long. They may be promoted, upon proven their skill with rice, and will move to a position called Wakiita, or “close to the cutting board.” As Wakiita, the apprentice takes on the responsibility of preparing other ingredients such as preparing the fish, slicing vegetables, and grating ginger for the Itamae to assemble into a full sushi roll. With hard work and practice, the sushi apprentice may finally be promoted to full Itamae, and be given the privilege to turn the simple staples of rice, fish, and seaweed into something special.

In Japan, Sushi is an art form, and it takes anywhere from 2 to 20 years to become a fully-trained Itamae. Sushi is known and loved by many around the world; it is the simplicity of its nature that allows for the quality of the chef’s skills to flourish. At Osaka Japanese Bistro in Las Vegas, all of our sushi chefs are top-notch, with award-winning chefs including world famous Shingo “Shin” Aihara. Reserve a table today and taste perfection!

Sushi 101

First time Eating Sushi in Las Vegas?

Don’t worry, you are definitely not the first, you’ve been pushed and nagged by your friends, and now find yourself reluctantly sitting in a Las Vegas sushi bar not knowing the first thing about sushi: what it is, how to eat it, (should you eat it?), how to order, and what all these little plates are for. Like I said, don’t worry, you’re not the first. There are many books out there for “what to expect when you’re expecting” or “parenting for first- time parents”; but eating isn’t normally something that comes with a manual, it’s a natural part of life that we eagerly grab onto within the first hours of birth. Why is it then, that when it comes to sushi, even the most experienced eaters seem to falter? Stepping outside of our regular diet and eating habits can be both intimidating and fun; if you are ready to take a step into the unknown, continue reading, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

If you look around you  at a sushi bar, you will find an assortment of people, some may be tourists appreciating local Las Vegas food, others may be college students out with friends, some may be serious sushi connoisseurs who look down their noses at sub-par sushi.  Everyone in this room was once in the same position as you, even the snobby sushi connoisseur was once a first-timer. Being able to enjoy sushi is definitely an art; much like visual and performing arts, in order for one to actively appreciate it, you have to put it into perspective, you have to know what to expect.

What is sushi? And what is isn’t.

Most first-timers have many similar insecurities, squeamishness concerning  eating raw fish is basically on the top of the list. Its good to set things straight; Sushi does not mean “raw fish”, it was actually originally a way of preserving fish that has evolved for centuries into the sushi we know today.  The sushi we are most familiar with is actually a style of fast food from the Edo Region (Edomae)  that became popular about 200 years ago in the seaport that is now known as Tokyo.  The main goal for a sushi chef is not to make patrons eat weird food, it is to present the ingredients in a way that will highlight the flavors favorably to the palate.  Cooking sometimes takes away some of the flavors that a fish naturally has, therefore making the uncooked fish much better suited for sushi.  Although sushi made from raw fish (such as Tuna or Halibut) is delicious (and should be made from high quality sashimi grade fish) rushing right into it might not be for everyone. Many people find that it’s best to enter the world of sushi-connoisseurs by starting out with foods they are already familiar with and then transition into the more exotic dishes. To learn about the top 10 choices for the first-time sushi eater in Las Vegas, come back for our next blog.

 

Little Known Facts about Your Favorite Raw Fish Dish

Sometimes the secret behind good food isn’t just the best ingredients or the right recipe; the fascinating history and little-known facts can be just as delicious! Today we bring you a few snippets of information about Sushi that you may not have known.

#1 Contrary to popular belief, the word Sushi doesn’t mean “raw fish.”

The term actually refers to how the cook prepares the rice, by flavoring it with vinegar. That means that even vegetarian sushi dishes like avocado rolls and temaki are still real sushi.

#2 Tuna is a common ingredient, so much so that almost 80% of the world’s Bluefin tuna caught is used for Sushi.

At Osaka, we serve 18 different sushi rolls using tuna!

#3 The knives that sushi chefs use is the modern version of a samurai’s sword.

They are finely crafted and must be routinely sharpened every day, ensuring only the most accurate, precise cuts.

#4 How sushi looks is just as important as how it tastes.

Sushi chefs put a great deal of effort into how their meal is arranged and appears to the hungry customers. A great meal isn’t just eaten with your mouth, but with your eyes as well.

#5 The most anybody has ever paid for sushi-quality Bluefin tuna was $1.76 million for a 489 lb Bluefin Tuna.

It was bought by a Tokyo sushi restaurant chain Kiyomura K.K. This comes out to over $3000 per pound of fish, and a fish that size would make a lot of tuna rolls!

Remember these fun facts the next time you eat at Osaka, because behind every sushi roll, there’s a story.

Why Japanese People Live So Long

Longevity and the Japanese Diet

Japan has one of the highest numbers of centenarians in the world. As America fights an obesity epidemic and an increase in chronic diseases at younger ages, we may wonder how Japan has achieved such a long average lifespan.

The answer is probably strongly linked to Japanese diet, culture, their island home and some history.  Japan emerged after World War II as a strong, growing economy.  This led to better nutrition, better education and higher living standards for the Japanese people.  And, Japanese families overwhelmingly revere and care for their elders, so they may enjoy a longer, happier and more productive old age. But, prosperity and elder care alone don’t account for the extraordinary health and longevity of the Japanese.

Japanese culture encourages good health.  Along with a good healthcare system that is affordable for most people, citizens are encouraged to get exercise and stay in shape, and to maintain a healthy weight.  A doctor visit in Japan means that your waistline will be measured and recorded and, if needed, you will be instructed on how to lose that little bit of extra weight.  In Japan, cultural norms in this still close-knit national culture are strongly enforced, so peer pressure helps to remind people to pay attention to their health.

This peer pressure includes mealtime, too, of course. A Japanese meal is served in small portions and on small plates.  The ancient Japanese proverb hara hachi bunme is still practiced: “stop eating when you are 80%  full.” Children and adults are encouraged to “eat with their eyes” and dishes are prepared in attractive displays that can be enjoyed visually and not just in eating them. The combination of a wholesome diet with an active lifestyle is what largely contributes to the longevity of Japanese people.

How does the Japanese diet contribute to health? As an island nation, seafood plays a huge role as a source of healthy protein in the Japanese diet.  Seafood is low in calories, high in omega-3 fatty acids and easy to prepare and digest.  The average Japanese consumes over 150 pounds of fish a year. Rice and vegetables make up the bulk of the rest of the diet, generally served simply with few added fats or ingredients that add calories. Cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage and broccoli are common and are helpful in fighting cancer.

Even Japanese desserts are lighter than Americans are used to.  Using less sugar and fat, they may be made of sweetened pounded rice or bean paste and include fresh fruits and light toppings.

The Japanese enjoy green tea several times a day.  The health benefits of green tea are well known and should not be ignored in any healthy diet. Beneficial antioxidants known as polyphenols in green tea have been shown to help prevent cancer and heart disease and are  believed to be beneficial in weight loss, lowering cholesterol and preventing diabetes and stroke.

The benefits of a Japanese diet are many, but the greatest pleasure may come in the many delicious varieties of dishes one can enjoy knowing that the tasty meal is also nutritious and healthful.  We hope you enjoy your Japanese meals whether in Japan or here at Osaka Restaurant and we wish you a long and healthy life.

 

Sushi 101 – A Beginner’s Guide to Japan’s Most Famous Food

Does interpreting a sushi menu seem like a daunting task to you? Well, then it’s time to get over your sushiahphobia (fear of sushi). Sushi is no longer reserved just for happy Japanese tummies. You can find it in almost any city from New York, NY to Austin, TX and of course here in Las Vegas. Even Grand Junction, CO (population of 58,000) has a handful of sushi restaurants. It is an especially popular meal choice for those dining out with friends. Chances are you’ll be invited to eat sushi sooner or later, so it’s best to be prepared and educate yourself now!

If you have never had sushi before, it can be a scary thing. Looking at the menu can be like trying to decipher a foreign document. Don’t let your fear of the unfamiliar prevent you from trying something potentially mind-blowing. After reading this guide, you will be ready to walk into any sushi restaurant ready to order with poise and confidence.

Picture of Sushi Menu Guide^Click picture for larger view

The Most Common Types of Sushi on the Menu

Hand Roll- This type of roll is made by wrapping sushi rice and ingredients into a cone shape. It is perfect for eating with your hands (hence the name) and is more for individual enjoyment rather than sharing.

Maki Roll– Typically, a maki roll (sometimes shortened to just ‘maki’) is made by rolling sushi rice and a variety of fish and vegetables in nori (seaweed). It is shaped into a circular tube which is then cut into bite-sized disks. Most sushi restaurants will have a list of specialty rolls; these are maki rolls with different combinations of ingredients. Maki rolls are great for sharing!

Nigiri– These are the original and most simple sushi options. Most nigiri are oval balls of sushi rice topped with fresh, masterfully sliced pieces of fish. One order normally comes with two pieces of sushi. If you are a little wary of the raw fish thing, you might want to start with the tamago (egg) or ebi (shrimp) nigiri.

Sashimi– Sashimi are slices of raw fish enjoyed with a side of soy sauce for dipping. It is not really ‘sushi’ per se, but it is commonly eaten at sushi restaurants because it’s basically nigiri without the rice.

Tekka Maki– These are mini maki rolls. They are smaller, so normally have one ingredient in the middle. Common tekka maki rolls are maguro (tuna), cucumber, and takuan (yellow pickled vegetable). A cucumber tekka maki might be a good one for a sushi-newbie to start with.

The Most Common Options on Sushi Menu

Ama Ebi – Sweet shrimp (raw). Sometimes it will be served with the fried shrimp head which is a crispy delicacy. (Like a big shrimp chip!)

Ebi– Cooked shrimp.

Hamachi– Yellowtail.

Ika– Squid. If you like squid in other dishes like pasta, you might like this one. Be aware that it will be chewy in comparison to the other fish options.

Inari– Fried tofu wrapper filled with sushi rice. The outside wrapper is a little sweet and is served cold. There are many creative ways to fill inari sushi, but it is most commonly filled with pure sushi rice.

Maguro– Tuna.

Sake– Salmon. (Not to be confused with ‘sake,’ the Japanese alcoholic beverage.) This is one of the best nigiri to start with when trying raw fish for the first time. It has a smooth, almost creamy texture.

Tako– Octopus. This is can also be a bit chewy, similarly to the ika (squid).

Tamago– Egg. The egg you find on top of sushi is normally sweetened with sugar and cooked in a special square pan called a tamagoyaki pan.

Tobiko– Fish Eggs. These fish eggs don’t have much taste and are enjoyed mostly for the  unique texture. They ‘pop’ in your mouth! You will find tobiko as a decorative ingredient on many other types of maki sushi rolls including the ever popular California roll (imitation crab meat paired with cucumber).

Unagi– Eel. Eating eel may sound exotic, but the texture of unagi most closely resembles that of a tender meat making it another great beginner’s option. It is also considered a good source of protein and energy.

Other Sushi Restaurant FYIs

Ginger– There will often times be pickled ginger on the side of your plate at a sushi restaurant. It has a strong taste meant to cleanse the palette between or after your meal.

Sushi Rice– Sushi is made with a specially prepared rice (white rice mixed with vinegar and sugar). Despite the vinegar, it has a subtle flavor that is not overpowering to the palette.

Unagi Sauce– You will find ‘unagi sauce’ as an ingredient in many maki rolls.  The flavor can be thought of as a thicker, sweeter version of teriyaki sauce. It compliments sushi very well.

Wasabi– The green paste on your plate is NOT avocado! It’s wasabi (Japanese mustard) and it’s spicy. Mix a little piece of it in your soy sauce for dipping.

Master of the Sushi Menu

So now that you’ve read this beginner’s guide to the sushi menu, call your friends and go try some sushi! You now have the knowledge to order like a pro. Start with more familiar options like the tamago nigiri, then venture out further with the sake (salmon). Remember what you read here and you’ll be eating sushi like a Japanese boss in no time. Ganbatte (good luck)!

Contributed by Dera Masunaga