You go out to your favorite sushi restaurant and look at the menu. There are maki rolls, hand-rolled temaki, nigiri, and sashimi. But what is the difference between nigiri and sashimi?
Sushi has become increasingly popular across the globe, and you can often find sushi rolls in supermarkets.
You may even find nigiri and sashimi in grocery stores now! In Japan, sushi is found in convenience stores, train stations, as well as in fine restaurants and exclusive dining establishments. Sushi can be a delicious, fast, and healthy meal for anyone.
When trying sushi, it can be important to understand the differences between the types of sushi so you can be happy with your order, and in particular, understanding nigiri vs. sashimi
Many people enjoy sushi rolls or maki, like California rolls. These can be filled with many fillings and can even have additional toppings added.
The roll is then sliced and served, making it a perfect dish to share with others. The individually sliced rolls can be eaten with your fingers or chopsticks.
Temaki, or handrolls, are cone-shaped sushi that rolls rice and a filling into a sheet of nori, or dried seaweed. These are very portable and delicious, especially if you love the flavor of nori.
Nigiri and sashimi are much simpler, one served with rice, and one is served on its own. Read on to discover the differences and similarities between sashimi vs. nigiri.
What Is Nigiri?
You might be asking yourself what nigiri is…. Nigiri is a very common and popular sushi dish in Japan. It is mainly comprised of fish and sushi rice.
Sushi rice is a specific grain of steamed rice seasoned with vinegar and other ingredients. Nigiri uses this sushi rice and tops it with a slice of fish.
Nigiri means “two fingers,” which refers to the amount of rice and width of fish used that seems to fit perfectly on the chef’s two fingers as they make it.
Many common nigiri dishes include fresh salmon, halibut, tuna, and yellowtail. These fish have a higher fat content, which allows the fish to combine well with the rice and melt on your tongue.
Some restaurants will add a small amount of wasabi between the fish and the rice, while others will serve wasabi on the side.
Nigiri is often made with raw fish, but it can be made with seared or cooked fish. Cooked or seared nigiri use a method of cooking called tatami, which means that the fish is held over an open flame to sear it quickly.
How Healthy Is Nigiri?
As sushi has become more convenient and easy to find, many people wonder, “Is sushi healthy?”
Nigiri relies on fresh ingredients and fish with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Since the dish is made simply with rice and fish, it is pretty low in calories. The average piece of nigiri sushi has about 70 calories.
Many sushi rolls can include fried shrimp, mayonnaise, sweet sauces, and other ingredients that add calories and poor-quality fats. However, nigiri sushi is so simple. It does not have this problem and is a very healthy choice for a fast lunch or dinner.
What Is Sashimi?
Even though the term is often used in sushi, sashimi is not sushi at all. Sushi must include rice, and sashimi does not. Sashimi is only raw fish or meat.
“Sashimi” translates to “pierced meat.” Cutting and preparing the fish for sashimi is highly skilled and often takes years of training.
This explains why the price can be expensive for a small serving of fish.
Sashimi often arrives with a small saucer of soy sauce for dipping or a few choice garnishes that are specially selected to elevate the flavor of the dish, and the taste can be unique and exquisite.
You can now find sashimi-grade raw fish, usually frozen, at many specialty stores or Asian supermarkets. This allows people to make their sashimi and sushi at home!
Nigiri and Sashimi: What’s The Difference?
While you may have seen both nigiri and sashimi listed on sushi menus, it’s important to understand the differences. Nigiri is a type of sushi, and sashimi is not.
This can impact several things. Nigiri is often raw but can be seared or cooked. Sashimi is always served raw.
Nigiri is often lined up neatly on a plate, and sashimi is flat. Nigiri is the perfect finger food but can be eaten with chopsticks, while sashimi is always eaten.
Nigiri often comes with soy sauce, wasabi, and perhaps pickled ginger, similar to other types of sushi. Sashimi may come with seaweed, shiso leaves, daikon radish, ginger, and more to give different complexity to the fish.
Typically, sashimi will cost more than nigiri. Part of that is due to the nature of the dishes. While nigiri has filling rice included in the dish, sashimi is just the fish itself.
Nigiri and sushi rolls also use thinner and smaller cuts of fish or may chop or finely dice the fish and mix it with a sauce before rolling it.
Sashimi must use a certain cut and size of fish to give the expected mouthfeel and taste.
Additionally, sashimi uses only high-quality fish that is served raw. The process of transporting, storing, preparing, and cutting the fish adds to the cost of sashimi.
Is sashimi healthier than sushi?
Sashimi uses high-quality fish that is often rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. This makes the dish healthy in its own right.
If you watch carbohydrates or eat a keto diet, sashimi offers a high-quality protein with healthy fats and no carbohydrates whatsoever. That said, both nigiri and sashimi are healthy food options.
To compare, 100 grams of salmon sashimi has 100 calories, 20 grams of protein, 0.2 grams of fat, and no carbohydrates.
That same amount of tuna nigiri (100 grams, or about 2 pieces) contains 117 calories, 15 grams of protein, 12 grams carbs, and 0.5 grams of fat.
How to Make a Homemade Nigiri?
To make nigiri at home, you will need short-grain sushi rice, rice vinegar, sugar, sashimi-grade fish, or other toppings, as well as soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.
Most of these ingredients can be found at your local Japanese grocery store. Your toppings can be raw sashimi-grade fish, boiled shrimp or octopus, omelet sheets, cooked eel, and more.