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Ingredients for Sushi

All sushi has a base of specially prepared rice, and complemented with other ingredients.

Sushi Rice

Sushi is made with white, short-grained, Japanese rice mixed with a dressing made of rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and occasionally kombu and sake. It is usually cooled to room temperature before being used for a filling in a sushi. In some fusion cuisine restaurants, short grain brown rice and wild rice are also used.
Sushi rice (sushi-meshi) is prepared with short-grain Japanese rice, which has a consistency that differs from long-grain strains such as those from India. The essential quality is its stickiness. Rice that is too sticky has a mushy texture; if not sticky enough, it feels dry. Freshly harvested rice (shinmai) typically has too much water, and requires extra time to drain the rice cooker after washing.
There are regional variations in sushi rice and, of course, individual chefs have their individual methods. Most of the variations are in the rice vinegar dressing: the Tokyo version of the dressing commonly uses more salt; in Osaka, the dressing has more sugar.


The seaweed wrappers used in maki and temaki are called nori. Nori is an algae, traditionally cultivated into the harbors of Japan. Originally, algae was scraped from dock pilings, rolled out into thin, edible sheets, and dried in the sun, in a process similar to making rice paper. Whereas in Japan Nori may never be toasted before being used in food, many brands found in the U.S. reach drying temperatures above 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
Today, the commercial product is farmed, produced, toasted, packaged, and sold in standard-size sheets in about 18 cm by 21 cm (7 in by 8 in). Higher quality nori is thick, smooth, shiny, green,[citation needed] and has no holes. When stored for several months, nori sheets can change color to dark green-brownish.
Nori by itself is an edible snack and is available with salt or flavored with teriyaki sauce. The flavored variety, however, tends to be of lesser quality and is not suitable for sushi. When making fukusazushi, a paper-thin omelette may replace a sheet of nori as the wrapping. The omelette is traditionally made on a rectangular omelette pan (makiyakinabe), and used to form the pouch for the rice and fillings.

Toppings and fillings

Fish for Sushi

For culinary, sanitary, and aesthetic reasons, fish eaten raw must be fresher and of higher quality than fish which is cooked. Professional sushi chefs are trained to recognize important attributes, including smell, color, firmness, and freedom from parasites that may go undetected in commercial inspection. Commonly-used fish are tuna (maguro, chūtoro, shiro-maguro, toro), Japanese amberjack, yellowtail (hamachi), snapper (kurodai), mackerel (saba), and salmon (sake). The most valued sushi ingredient is toro, the fatty cut of tuna. This comes in a variety of ōtoro (often from the bluefin species of tuna) and chūtoro, meaning middle toro, implying that it is halfway into the fattiness between toro and regular red tuna (maguro). Aburi style refers to nigiri sushi where the fish is partially grilled (topside) and partially raw. Most nigiri sushi will be completely raw.

Seafood for Sushi

Other seafoods such as squid (ika), eel (anago and unagi), conger (hamo), octopus (tako), shrimp (ebi and amaebi), clam (mirugai, aoyagi and akagi), fish roe (ikura, masago, kazunoko and tobiko), sea urchin (uni), crab (kani), and various kinds of shellfish (abalone, prawn, scallop) are the most popular seafoods in sushi. Oysters, however, are less common, as the taste is not thought to go well with the rice. Kani kama, or imitation crab stick, is commonly subsituted for real crab, most notably in California rolls.


Pickled daikon radish (takuan) in shinko maki, pickled vegetables (tsukemono), fermented soybeans (nattō) in nattō maki, avocado, cucumber in kappa maki, asparagus, yam, pickled ume (umeboshi), gourd (kanpyō), burdock (gobo), and sweet corn may be mixed with mayonnaise.

Other fillings

Tofu and eggs (in the form of slightly sweet, layered omelette called tamagoyaki and raw quail eggs ride as a gunkan-maki topping) are common.



The common name for soy sauce.


A piquant paste made from the grated root of the wasabi japonica plant. True wasabi has anti-microbial properties and may reduce the risk of food poisoning. The traditional grating tool for wasabi is a sharkskin grater or samegawa oroshi. An imitation wasabi (seiyo-wasabi), made from horseradish and mustard powder and dyed green is common. It is found at lower-end kaiten zushi restaurants, in bento box sushi and at most restaurants outside of Japan. If manufactured in Japan, it may be labelled "Japanese Horseradish".


Sweet, pickled ginger. Eaten to both cleanse the palate and aid in digestion.

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