If you’ve never tried nigiri sushi, now’s the time! It’s an extremely popular Japanese dish that’s well-loved by people all over the world. Nigiri sushi is also one of the most versatile dishes out there and there are plenty of types to choose from. Even the pickiest eaters are bound to find a variety of nigiri sushi that they enjoy. Nigiri sushi is quite unique in terms of texture and flavor, which is one of the main reasons why it’s gained so much popularity.
This delicate dish consists of a small ball of sushi rice, gently hand-pressed onto an elegant cut of raw fish (or another type of seafood). The delectable combination of the warm rice and the freshly prepared, succulent fish is a good enough reason to book a flight to Japan right now. That said, you could also just go to the nearest authentic sushi restaurant (or even make your own, if you’re feeling confident).
There are a wide variety of delicious nigiri sushi dishes you can try. From the classic salmon nigiri to the more adventurous uni (sea urchin) nigiri, you truly can’t go wrong with your decision. Try them all, if you’d like! The more the merrier. If you’re new to nigiri sushi, however, we recommend trying some of the most popular types – such as yellowtail, flounder, eel, or tuna nigiri. This article will be your comprehensive guide to nigiri sushi, so stick around!
Nigiri Sushi Overview
If you’re interested in getting into the intricate world of nigiri sushi, you’ve come to the right place. Nigiri sushi originated in Japan a long, long time ago, and is generally considered to be one of the most classic forms of sushi. If you’re wondering, nigiri means “two fingers” in Japanese, and this delicacy is so named due to the method sushi chefs use to roll the rice balls.
The seafood placed on top of the rice is usually raw, however some popular types of nigiri use cooked seafood (like eel, for example), and some use vegetables or avocado as vegetarian options. Nigiri sushi is beloved because it’s so incredibly flavorful. The vinegar in the sushi rice is sharp and tangy, which contrasts especially well with the sweetness of fish like salmon and yellowtail. The soft, chewy texture of nigiri sushi is also quite pleasing.
How Many Types of Nigiri Sushi Are There?
There are plenty of fish in the sea, but how many different types of fish are used to make nigiri sushi? Nigiri is super versatile, so it’s actually kind of difficult to pinpoint just how many types of nigiri sushi there are. There are currently at least 100 different types of nigiri sushi out there, and new variations are being created all the time. Some nigiri sushi variations are more popular than others, and those are the variations you’re most likely to see being served in restaurants.
What are the Different Types of Nigiri Sushi?
Now for the part you’ve been waiting for! We’ve compiled a list of what we consider to be the 12 best types of nigiri sushi below — all of which are worth trying. Take a gander!
Flounder nigiri is delectable, but underappreciated. This type of nigiri has thinly-sliced pieces of delicate flounder, which are carefully placed atop small balls of warm rice. Flounder is delightfully mild-tasting, which means it pairs exceptionally well with the rice. Flounder nigiri sushi tastes especially delicious when you dip it in soy sauce or wasabi before eating it. The saltiness of the soy sauce complements the sweetness of the flounder, and the wasabi gives the dish a little kick of spice.
Salmon nigiri is a classic, and is considered by most to be one of the most popular types of nigiri sushi. Salmon nigiri is made with succulent, pink salmon, which has a buttery flavor and a tender texture when you bite into it. The way the salmon pairs with the rice is truly a match made in Heaven. You can eat salmon nigiri plain, or dip it in the sauce of your choice.
Eel(unagi) nigiri is a personal favorite for many. This dish consists of a small piece of grilled or broiled eel, placed on top of a compact ball of rice. Most sushi chefs will then season the eel with a sweet and savory sauce called tare, which brings out the eel’s unique flavor. Eel meat is soft and tender, which makes it easy to eat — especially with the rice. Most people enjoy eel nigiri with some wasabi or pickled ginger, which helps to balance out the dish’s intense flavors.
Tuna nigiri is also quite a popular choice! Raw tuna and seasoned rice go exceptionally well together. Properly prepared tuna is clean and crisp, and with the savory rice, you’re sure to get an explosion of flavor every time you take a bite. If you go to an authentic sushi restaurant, you’re going to get super high-quality tuna, so it’s definitely worth giving it a try!
Squid nigiri (ika nigiri) is quite unique and flavorful. The sushi chef makes this type of nigiri by grilling a small piece of squid until it’s nice and tender, then placing it on top of a ball of seasoned rice. The squid has a savory flavor to it, which pairs well with the sweet, tangy flavor of the rice. We cannot recommend it enough!
Sea urchin nigiri isn’t for everyone, but you shouldn’t let the fact that it’s sea urchin stop you from trying it. In fact, uni nigiri is considered to be quite a decadent and luxurious dish in Japan. The creamy, briny sea urchin roe pairs beautifully with the sweet rice. It’s a unique flavor for sure, but there’s never been a more delicious balance. If you’re worried about the flavor of the uni being too overpowering, you can always try it with some soy sauce, or a piece of pickled ginger.
Scallop nigiri is an absolutely delectable choice. The sushi chef makes this type of nigiri by placing a small, sweet piece of succulent scallop on top of the sushi rice ball. Scallops are incredibly versatile, and are used in plenty of sushi and seafood dishes. It’s also common practice to brush a little bit of soy sauce on top of scallop nigiri. This variation of nigiri has a sweet and delicate flavor, as well as a tender and juicy texture that is sure to have you reaching across the table for seconds.
Imagine, if you will, a small piece of flavorful yellowtail laid atop a fluffy ball of rice. This combination is sweet and tangy, and is sure to make your tastebuds jump for joy. Yellowtail nigiri is another popular choice for those trying nigiri sushi for the first time. It’s delicious, but not overpowering, and a sushi chef’s presentation of this dish is often breathtaking. It’s definitely a must-try!
Albacore nigiri is juicy and flavorful. You can’t bite into a piece of albacore nigiri sushi without the sweet juices running down your chin. The albacore is sweet and the rice is tangy, which makes for an excellent combination. Many people who are new to nigiri want to try this dish because it’s known for being especially mouth-watering and satisfying.
Saba-Mackerel nigiri is not as popular in the United States as it is in Japan, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from trying it. This variation of nigiri has complex natural flavors and a delightful texture (albeit a rather fishy smell). You can dip Saba-Mackerel nigiri in wasabi or garlic, or eat it with some sliced pickled ginger. That’s the fun thing about sushi — there are so many different ways you can enjoy it!
Jellyfish nigiri (otherwise known as kurage nigiri) is more delicious than you might think. You wouldn’t typically eat a jellyfish you find lying on the beach, of course, but the jellyfish used in jellyfish nigiri are specifically prepared to be delectable and unique-tasting. Jellyfish is flavorful and crunchy, which means it goes quite well with the fluffy, tangy rice. The jellyfish’s texture is what really makes this type of nigiri stand out. If you’re feeling adventurous, give it a try!
Fish Roe Nigiri
Fish roe nigiri is incredibly satisfying and is considered to be quite decadent in the world of nigiri sushi. Fish roe (also known as ikura or tarako) is a prized ingredient in Japanese cooking. It has a slightly salty flavor, and is quite juicy when you bite into it. This burst of juice and flavor goes well with the sweet white rice, and the texture is sure to have you savoring every bite. Not everyone likes the idea of eating fish roe, but if you’re comfortable, it’s totally worth giving it a try.
What is the Most Popular Nigiri Sushi?
The most popular variation of nigiri sushi would definitely have to be salmon nigiri. Time and time again, people have shown that they love this type of nigiri in particular. There really is just something about the sweet, succulent flavor of salmon, isn’t there? Furthermore, salmon nigiri pairs excellently with a little bit of lemon juice squeezed on top. You can also enjoy it with wasabi, soy sauce, or pickled ginger. It’s definitely versatile! We think that’s why it’s so popular.
One of the best things about nigiri sushi is that there are so many different variations of it, so no matter what, you’re going to find something that you like. Vegetarians and people who don’t like fish and other seafood can still enjoy a good piece of avocado or vegetable nigiri sushi. You can eat nigiri sushi on its own, but we definitely recommend dipping it in some soy sauce or eating it with just a little bit of wasabi. The wasabi might make your sinuses burn a little, but that’s just part of the experience! Wash it down with some tea or saké, and enjoy!