Japanese cuisine is popular globally because of its diversity and taste. However, for a beginner, it can also be confusing. Especially if you do not speak their language, Japanese food is tricky to understand.
Among others, two of the words that you will often encounter are nigiri vs sashimi. If you are ordering in a Japanese restaurant, do not be hesitant to ask about the difference. For those who are too shy to ask, then the best thing to do is to arm yourself with the right knowledge. If that is the case, then keep on reading and learn from the insights we’ll be sharing in this post.
What is Nigiri?
There are countless types of sushi, but none is perhaps more popular than a nigiri, which is a staple in many Japanese restaurants. Nigiri is a Japanese word, which means two fingers, which refers to the amount of rice that should fit between your two fingers when making a nigiri.
What is Sashimi?
While nigiri is a type of sushi, sashimi is not. Instead, sashimi is an ingredient that you can commonly find in sushi. Sashimi is a raw and sliced ingredient. It is usually fish, but it can also be beef, shrimp, and chicken, among others. It does not include rice in any way. This is unlike sushi, which uses rice as one of its main ingredients.
Difference Between Nigiri and Sashimi
Now that we have briefly described nigiri and sashimi, this section will talk more about the similarities and differences between the two.
The biggest difference between the two lies in the ingredients that are used. In the case of sashimi, there is no other ingredient. It is a thin slice of raw fish, such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel or raw meat, such as beef and chicken. The most common misconception is that sashimi only refers to raw fish. Another important thing to note about the ingredients is that sashimi does not come with rice.
A nigiri, on the other hand, has more ingredients. Because it is a type of sushi, then rice seasoned with vinegar is one of the must-haves. Sugar and salt can also be added for flavor. Aside from rice, it also includes raw fish or seafood. Unlike sashimi, meat is never used in a nigiri. While the topping is mostly raw, there are also instances when it is cooked or seared.
When eating nigiri, most traditionalists will choose to not garnish it with anything. It is eaten as is, with most of the flavors coming from the topping and the seasoned rice. However, you can also garnish it and add sauce. Sashimi, on the other hand, is served with garnishes, including toasted nori, shisho leaves, daikon radish, and any sauce that you please.
The manner of preparation is also different. More of this will be discussed in the next section as we talk about the specific steps. In a nutshell, nigiri is more difficult to prepare compared to sashimi. Sashimi requires skills to slice fish or meat. With nigiri, aside from slicing, you will also need to press rice using your fingers and add the slice of your chosen ingredient on the top. Both, however, will not require rolling.
There is also a slight difference between the two when it comes to the way you eat them. A nigiri is often eaten with your hands and chopsticks. It has pressed rice, so it will be easy to hold with your fingers. On the other hand, sashimi is a raw ingredient that is eaten with chopsticks. It is not eaten with hand.
How to Make Nigiri
Interested in learning how to make nigiri? It might seem difficult for a beginner, but if you know the right steps, it will be an easy task.
- Cook the rice. Find a sticky kind of rice and season it as part of the cooking process. Vinegar is used for flavor, as well as sugar and salt.
- Prepare the topping that you want for your nigiri. For most people, they use fish. Look for fresh fish for the best flavor. If you are unsure about the quality of the fish, then the best practice is to not use it raw. Grill or bake before slicing. Cut into thin and small slices.
- Wet your hands. This is an important part of the procedure since this will prevent the rice from sticking.
- Start shaping the rice. Press about 25 grams of rice into an oval. Put it on the base of your fingers, specifically on the part where your fingers meet your palm. Press the rice gently with your palm until you get the desired shape.
- Get a thin slice of whatever it is that you plan to use as the topping. Add a dab of wasabi. It does not only incorporate flavor, but this is also a great way to make sure that the topping will stick to the rice.
- Garnish, serve, and enjoy. While you can enjoy it as is, you can also add sauces and garnishes depending on the flavors that you want.
How to Make Sashimi
Compared to nigiri, sashimi is easier to prepare. Slicing the fish or meat can be quite tasking, but when you have a sharp and high-quality knife, it is easier to achieve clean and consistent cuts.
- Find the right ingredient. Most people will go for fish, including salmon, yellowtail, and tuna. Regardless, the most important is for it to be sushi-grade, which means that it is safe to be eaten raw. Otherwise, there can be parasites present.
- Prepare the fish. Remove the skin and fillet as needed. You will need a good sashimi knife to do this. This will help to create clean cuts. When cutting the fish or meat, do it only once. When you go back and forth, this will ruin the appearance of the fish or meat. When slicing, another important thing is to use a wooden board and observe the right angle.
- Once it is ready, arrange it on a plate. Presentation is important to make the dish more appetizing, so exert an effort to make it look good. Add garnishes and sauces on the plate. Lemon slices, wasabi, vinegar, soy sauce, and pickled radish are some of the best choices. You can also consider adding vegetables on the plate, which is a great way to add texture and color to the dish.
With the things mentioned above, we hope that you now know the difference between nigiri and sashimi. They are both popular foods in Japanese cuisine. Nigiri is a type of sushi. It is made of seasoned rice with a topping, usually raw fish or meat. The topping can also be cooked or seared. It is eaten using chopsticks or your hand. Sashimi, on the other hand, is raw fish or meat. It does not include rice. It is eaten with chopsticks and garnishes.