“Nigiri sushi” is the word used to refer to sushi that is made by placing fish on top of vinegared rice and gently shaped with the hands. Although sliced fish is the most commonly used topping for nigiri sushi, it can be further narrowed down to raw fish, pickled fish, as well as broiled fish. Sometimes sliced pieces of Japanese omelette are used as a topping as well. Let’s take a closer look at the history and different varieties of nigiri sushi.
How Did Nigiri Sushi Come to Be?
Nigiri sushi was famous as a sort of “fast food” in the Edo period. It’s said that pieces of nigiri sushi were as big as the palm of one’s hand at the time. Eventually, a single piece was separated into two to make it easier to eat, and this is why plates of sushi come with two pieces even today.
In the Edo period, most sushi was provided through street stalls, and the ingredients used were generally either vinegared or heated. After refrigeration methods were introduced during the Meiji period, raw fish became commonly used and sushi became known as something of a sophisticated, high-class food.
During the second half of the Showa period, kaiten-zushi restaurants opened and nigiri sushi became more reasonably priced, after which even students without much money could easily enjoy it. It also became a common item that could be bought at supermarkets or convenience stores, and continues to be a staple food that many people enjoy even today.
To learn more about the history of sushi, check out this article.
This video shows what kaiten-zushi looks like.
How to Make Nigiri Sushi
Have you seen a sushi chef make nigiri sushi before? They take a small amount of rice and form it with their hands, add a bit of wasabi, lay fish on top of the rice, shape it, and then the piece of nigiri sushi is completed. This process takes less than a minute. The heat transferred from the hands to the sushi will have a negative effect on the taste, so it must be shaped quickly. We’ve laid the necessary steps out below, so why don’t you give it a try?
Take a small amount of vinegared rice in your right hand (about the size of a ping pong ball) and form it into a round shape with your right hand.
- Grab your desired topping with the index and thumb of your left hand and adjust the shape of it to that of the curve of your index finger.
- Take some wasabi with the index finger of your right hand and place it on the topping cradled in your left hand.
- Place the vinegared rice in your right hand on top of the topping in your left hand.
- Use the thumb of your left hand to gently press the topping into the vinegared rice and then use the index finger and thumb of your right hand to gently press and shape it. Finally, press gently with the index and middle finger of your right hand, and the nigiri sushi is complete.
This article introduces how to make vinegared rice.
How to Properly Season Nigiri Sushi with Soy Sauce
When eating nigiri sushi, you add soy sauce and eat it, right? The proper way to add soy sauce to nigiri sushi is to dip the piece of sushi into a small plate of soy sauce without breaking up the rice or making a mess of the sauce plate.
Some restaurants apply soy sauce to the sushi like the picture on the right, gently brushing the ingredient used as a topping before handing over the finished nigiri to the customer. In restaurants that do this, you should eat the sushi as-is without adding more soy sauce.
Read this article to learn more about how to eat sushi.
Types of Nigiri Sushi
Read this article to learn more about various types of nigiri sushi ingredients.
Read this article to learn the difference between sashimi and sushi!