What is Nigiri Sushi?

How well do you know your sushi terminology? When you see a sushi roll, you probably know enough to refer to it as a “roll”, but would you know how to ask for something that doesn’t come in “roll” form?

At our Bothell Japanese restaurant, the non-roll sushi is mostly going to be nigirizushi (literally, “hand-formed sushi”). Often called “nigiri sushi” in English speaking countries, these are the pieces of sushi with that classic, old-fashioned, fun-sized-candy-bar shape. They consist of an elongated clump of sushi rice, often mixed with a dash of wasabi, topped with a strip of fish, tamago, or other topping.

When a nigiri sushi is topped with roe, shredded seaweed, or some other variety of loose topping, a thick strip of nori will be wrapped around the rice to create a bowl-like structure on top and hold the topping in place. When this happens, it is called gunkan-maki (“warship roll”).