The Visual Guide to Japanese Food: Standard Sushi



When you’re in Japan, you’re going to want some authentic Japanese sushi. But with so many toppings, how do you know which fish is which? And then there’s the question of the “right” way to eat sushi. In this article, we’ll cover some of the most popular sushi that you wont want to miss, talking about their different tastes and in what season to enjoy them. Last, we’ll show you the “correct” ways of eating sushi so you can look like a pro when you sit down at the counter.

Must-try, popular sushi


Editors' Overall Rating:★★★
In season: All year round


A perennial favorite, salmon, or sake (sah-kay) as it’s called in Japanese, is a great choice for those new to sushi. It’s familiar orange color is stripped with white lines of fat, and it almost melts in your mouth.


Editors' Overall Rating:★★☆
In season: Sept. - Nov.

Ikura (ee-koo-rah) is the name for salmon eggs marinated with salt and soy sauce. This style of sushi with seaweed wrapped around the rice is called “Gunkan” or battleship sushi. The feeling of the eggs popping as you chew may be a little off-putting at first, but definitely give it a try!


Editors' Overall Rating: ★★☆
In season: Nov. - Feb.

Amaebi (ah-mah-eh-bee) is sweet shrimp. It’s softer and more tender than regular shrimp. One piece of sushi usually comes with two shrimp on top. When you bite into it, remove the tail with your hand.


Editors' Overall Rating: ★★☆
In season: Nov. - May

Madai (mah-die) or sea bream belongs to a group of fish called tai. In Japanese, the word medetai  means good fortune, and the Japanese believe tai bring good luck. The meat of this “lucky” fish is soft, especially fatty in fall / winter, and has a subtle taste.


Editors' Overall Rating: ★★★
In season: Oct. - Feb.

Taken from the fatty stomach of the tuna, Otoro (ooh-toh-row) is called the king of sushi. It has more fat than red meat, giving it a whitish appearance. It melts in your mouth and is incredibly delicious.


Editors' Overall Rating: ★★☆
In season: June - Aug. & Nov. - Feb.


This thick, fresh hotate (ho-tah-teh) or scallop has a lot of meat. It has a mild taste and is quite filling. It has a subtly sweet flavor and a soft texture.


Editors' Overall Rating: ★★☆
In season: Sept. - Feb.

In Japanese, an engawa (en-gah-wah) is a wrap-around veranda on a Japanese-style house. It’s also appropriately the name of the sushi made from the fin of the flounder. Compared to other types of sushi, engawa doesn’t have a very strong, fishy taste. Instead, it has mild flavor and crisp texture.


Editors' Overall Rating: ★★☆
In season: June - Aug. & Dec. - Feb.

Tako (tah-koh) or octopus is very chewy, so those eating it for the first time may have a little trouble. Some restaurants add a salty sauce to bring
out the subtle flavor of the octopus.

Very popular among Japanese! Give these a try, too!


Editors' Overall Rating: ★☆☆
In season: Sept. - Jan.

Shime-saba (she-meh sah-bah) is mackerel that has been marinated in vinegar and salt. This removes its fishy smell and makes it easy to eat. It has a strong flavor and a meaty texture.


Editors' Overall Rating: ★★★
In season: June - Aug.

Despite what you may think of its appearance, you should give uni  (oo-nee) or sea urchin a try. Considered a delicacy in Japan, its taste is reminiscent of the ocean and has a rich, creamy texture.

How to eat a gunkan-maki

While not entirely wrong, it’s not recommended to dip a gunkan-maki into soy sauce.

Instead, try dripping just a few drops of soy sauce on it from above.

Awabi(ah-wah-bee): abalone

Editors' Overall Rating: ★★☆
In season: June - Aug.

Called awabi (ah-wah-bee)  in Japanese, raw abalone is very crunchy and has a sea-like aroma. Although a little on the pricy side, this is one Japanese delicacy you wont want to miss.


Editors' Overall Rating: ★★★
In season: All year round

Rolled sushi is called maki zushi (mah-key zoo-she) . Here we have an ebi maki (eh-bee mah-key) with shrimp, avocado, and other fillings. It might  fall apart if you try to eat it in two bites, so we recommend eating it in one big bite!

How to eat sushi

Point one: you can eat sushi with either your hands or chopsticks. 

Point two: dip the fish rather than the rice in the soy sauce. 

Which sushi looked the best to you? Got a favorite that didn’t make our list? Let us know in the comments and keep an eye out for the next edition of The Visual Guide to Japanese Food!

【 Image source :Sushi-Nova, Aoyama Oval Building Restaurant】


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