Nigiri vs. Sashimi

Nigiri
Sashimi

Nigiri is a specific type of sushi comprising a slice of raw fish over pressed vinegared rice. Sashimi refers to just slices of very fresh fish or meat served raw, often over a bed of shredded daikon radish. Contrary to popular belief, sashimi is not sushi, even though you will always find sashimi on the menu at all sushi places.

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Nigiri

Sashimi

Introduction Nigiri is a type of sushi made of thin slices of raw fish over pressed vinegared rice. Sashimi is thinly sliced raw meat—usually fish, such as salmon or tuna—that is served without rice.
Is it cooked? Mostly raw, but you do find nigiri made with cooked or seared fish No, always raw.
Cuisine Japanese Japanese
Is it Sushi? Yes No
Is it always fish? Yes - fish and other seafood such as shrimp, octopus and squid, but never meat No, sashimi can be thin slices of meat, like beef, horse, chicken, or frog.
Does it have rice? Yes No
Accompanied by Pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce Pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce
Garnished with Mostly nothing else; occasionally a sauce if the chef so fancies Daikon radish, sisho leaves, toasted nori (seaweed), at times other sauces
Eaten with Hands or chopsticks Chopsticks

Contents: Nigiri vs Sashimi

edit Components

Nigirizushi, or nigiri is made with special sushi rice treated with vinegar . This vinegared rice, balled and pressed with two fingers forms the base of the nigiri. A slice of raw fish is then placed on the rice base, at times with a speck of wasabi.

Nigirizushi is usually served in pairs. Shown above is a plate of tuna and salmon nigiri
Nigirizushi is usually served in pairs. Shown above is a plate of tuna and salmon nigiri

Sashimi is slices of fresh raw fish (sometimes, meat) presented with several types of garnishes. The quality of sashimi lies in the freshness of fish, the way it’s sliced, presented and garnished. Common garnishes include shredded daikon radish, shiso leaves, or toasted nori (sea weed).

Both nigiri and sashimi are accompanied with pickled ginger and wasabi with soy sauce.

edit Etymology

Nigiri in Japanese means two fingers (ni = two, giri = fingers). Nigiri sushi gets its name from the rice which has to be of a very specific portion and fit on the chef’s “two fingers” when pressing. Sushi is a Japanese term that refers to anything made with vinegared rice.

Sashimi plate with various garnishes
Sashimi plate with various garnishes

Sashimi is a Japanese term for pierced flesh (Sashi = pierced, mi = flesh). The term may have originated from the culinary practice of sticking the fish’s tail and fin to the slices in identifying the fish being eaten. Another possibility for the name could come from the traditional method of harvesting - ‘Sashimi Grade’ fish is caught by individual hand line. As soon as the fish is landed, it is pierced with a sharp spike and placed in a body of ice. This spiking is call the Ike Jime process.

edit Common types of fish

The most popular fish toppings for nigirizushi are Maguro (tuna), Sake (salmon), Hamachi (yellowtail), Hirame (halibut), Ebi (cooked jumbo shrimp), Tamago (egg omelet) and Unagi (fresh water eel). These are popular because most sushi beginners find these easier on the palate. You will also often find Tako (octopus), Ika (squid), Kani (crab), Ikura (salmon roe), Awagi (abalone) and Kazunoko (herring roe), which have a distinct flavor and takes some getting used to.

Favorite fish for sashimi include Maguro (tuna), Sake (salmon), Hamachi (yellowtail), Tai (red snapper), Kihada (yellowfin tuna), Saba (mackerel), Tako (Octopus) and even raw red meats such as Gyuunotataki (beef), Basashi (horse) and Torisashi (chicken). Toriwasa (slightly seared chicken), a variation of Torisashi, is also a popular Sashimi delicacy.

edit Making Nigiri

Most sushi first-timers curious about fresh fish find sake (salmon) nigiri the easiest and best place to begin their sushi experience. Simple, unique-tasting and very palatable, nigiri is also very simple to make. The video below walks you through how nigiri is made:

edit Sashimi as an Art Form

Sashimi presented with beautiful form and garnish
Sashimi presented with beautiful form and garnish

Sashimi chefs take a lot of pride in presenting the right sashimi. Much as sliced raw fish looks like the simplest form of food, sashimi can be appreciated at several levels and with all senses. One of the simplest and most elegant ways to enjoy fish, sashimi is typically eaten at the start of the meal, before the heavier dishes start crowding the palate. Diners’ palates are fresher and more discerning of the nuances between each type of fish during the earlier courses of a multi-course meal. What makes sashimi an exquisite delicacy is that no two fish taste exactly the same, and even different cuts of the same fish can yield vastly different flavors and unique textures. Sashimi chefs consider it their pride and signature creating unique sashimi through various cuts, presentations, sauces and garnishes. Here's a video of a sashimi chef preparing and presenting a sashimi plate:

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