Nigiri vs Sashimi: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to Asian cuisine, you simply can’t beat the taste and diversity of sushi. Each bite is bursting with flavor that leaves you wanting more. But did you know that there are several different types of sushi, and different ways that you can make them? 

Nigiri vs Sashimi- What’s the Difference

When we think of sushi, we automatically think of raw fish (which is perfectly safe to eat) and rice wrapped in seaweed. However, two of the most common sushi dishes – Nigiri and Sashimi – aren’t actually “rolls” at all. You can find both of these dishes at most sushi restaurants, but what exactly are they? 

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at both Nigiri and Sashimi, and find out what makes them different. 

Nigiri

Nagiri (2)

Nigiri is a traditional sushi dish which consists of thinly-sliced raw fish, which is laid on top of sweet and salty vinegared rice. The roll is always served chilled, and the flavor of the fish combines with the tanginess of the rice.

Like many traditional sushi dishes, you can eat a Nigiri roll with either your hands, or chopsticks. It is commonly served with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi, but you can choose which you put on your Nigiri roll. 

Nigiri is typically made with salmon and bluefin tuna, but it can also be made with halibut. These fish have a very high-fat content which makes them melt in your mouth without having to endlessly chew. These fish also have the perfect contrast in flavor to the rice. 

The sushi rice is treated with vinegar, and then rolled up into a ball. The ball of rice is then pressed down to form the base of the Nigiri. The thinly-sliced fish is then placed on top of the rice. 

Nigiri literally means “two-fingers”, which comes from the way the rice is specifically portioned when the chef uses their two-fingers to press down. 

Sashimi 

Sashimi

Technically, Sashimi is not a form of sushi at all. It is made using raw fish, but it does not include any rice – which is a key component in any sushi. Whereas Nigiri translates to “two-fingers”, Sashimi means “pierced meat.”

With this being said, Sashimi is a dish which is composed of thinly-sliced raw pieces of fish and meat. 

Unlike Nigiri, there is no contrast in flavor as the meat is the only ingredient. However, it is usually paired with a small dish of soy sauce, which adds a layer of saltiness to the dish. 

Although Sashimi is most commonly made using fish, it can also be made from other meats. The most common Sashimi meats are salmon, tuna, squid, shrimp, octopus, chicken, beef and even horse. 

The fresh raw meat and fish is often presented with different garnishes. When it comes to quality, it’s all about how fresh the fish is, how well it’s been sliced, and the presentation and garnishes.

Sashimi is often considered an art form, and the garnishes that accompany the dish include toasted seaweed, daikon radish, and shiso leaves. 

Sashimi chefs take a lot of pride in their work, and always make sure the presentation is perfect. It may seem like a pretty simplistic dish, but it’s the sort of food which is appreciated by all of the senses. 

A lot of Sashimi chefs will take time to perfect their dish, and create their own signature dishes. This can be done through cuts, slices, presentation, garnish and sauce. 

How to Make Nigiri and Sashimi at Home?

Luckily, it’s not too difficult to make sushi at home – as long as you have the right ingredients and a bit of patience. The best place to get sushi ingredients is to go to a local Asian market.

They will usually have everything you need, but be sure to prepare the dish as soon as you buy the ingredients. With sushi, the more time that passes, the lower the quality of the dish. 

Nigiri Recipe 

Nigiri doesn’t have many ingredients. You will need sushi rice and sushi vinegar – sushi vinegar is a mix of vinegar, salt and sugar. For a more authentic taste, you can also use rice vinegar.

The last thing you need is the fish. Remember that Nigiri is typically made using salmon, bluefin tuna, or halibut. When it comes to choosing the fish, the fresher the better. 

To make Nigiri, take one cup of rice, two cups of water and a tablespoon of the vinegar mix, Either add these ingredients to a rice cooker, or boil the water and vinegar mix in a pan on the stove and cook the rice. 

Once the rice is cooked, wait 10-15 minutes until it has cooled down. Once cool, roll the rice into smallish balls. Use two-fingers to press down on the rice – make sure the rice is roughly the same length as your two-fingers. 

Once the rice block has been formed, add a slice of the fish on top. Serve the Nigiri with soy sauce. You can also add wasabi, but be careful as it’s incredibly spicy. 

If you do want to add more flavor, you can also marinate the fish in sauce before you add it to the rice block. 

Sashimi Recipe 

Although Sashimi seems like a simple dish, it’s all about the quality of the meat, and the way you cut it. To make Sashimi, you will need meat and a garnish of your choice.

Traditionally, Sashimi is made using salmon or tuna. When slicing the fish, the pieces should be no more than 5 centimeters long and 2 centimeters thick. 

The most important thing is to use the freshest fish you can. In Asian markets, you are able to purchase fish which is used specifically for Sashimi, but the fish can be on the pricier side. 

It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to prepare Sashimi. Simply cut the fish and add your desired garnishes or sides. Most people typically serve Sashimi with rice, seaweed, soy sauce or wasabi. A lot of Sashimi chefs like to add toasted seaweed, daikon radish, and shiso leaves. 

The most important thing to remember about Sashimi, is that you should never compromise on the quality of the fish. 

Comparison Chart 

Here’s a simple chart to sum up the differences between Nigiri and Sashimi. 

Nigiri Sashimi 
Cooked or Raw? Can be served either raw or cooked (pan seared). Always served raw. 
Type of MeatFish.Fish, Shrimp, Octopus, Chicken, Beef, Horse.
Side Dishes Comes without side dishes, as it includes rice.Typically comes with side dishes and garnishes. 
Price Moderately priced.Expensive. 
Where to Get It Available in most Japanese Sushi restaurants all around the world. Available in most Japanese Sushi restaurants all around the world. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Why is Sashimi more expensive than Nigiri? 

The most obvious answer to this is the cost of the fish used in Sashimi. Although the best sushi will use the freshest and highest quality fish, the fish that is used for Sashimi has to be the best-quality – not only because it’s served raw, but because it is usually served on its own with only a few garnishes.

Also, as it is served on its own, and Nigiri is served with rice, you often need more Sashimi than Nigiri to feel full. 

When it comes to the cut of the fish or meat used for Sashimi, it is generally bigger and thicker than the fish served in Nigiri, and other sushi rolls. This is because this needs to be small enough to comfortably fit with the rice accompaniment. 

When it comes to Sashimi, you are paying for the quality and amount of fish that you get. 

Is Nigiri expensive? 

Unlike most sushi, with Nigiri you can see the whole cut of fish. As it’s not hidden within the roll, the fish needs to look more aesthetically pleasing, or it will ruin the look and appeal of the Nigiri.

This isn’t to say that the fish inside other sushi rolls isn’t good quality, it’s just that the cut of the fish doesn’t need to look as pretty. 

The fish that is used for Nigiri is prepared in a similar way to Sashimi. However, the fish is sometimes cooked for Nigiri, but it is always served raw with Sashimi. 

Nigiri can be expensive, as compared to other rolls, you will usually get a larger portion of fish, which will be laid on top of the rice, rather than packed inside of a roll. 

Is Nigiri Healthy? 

Nigiri may not be as healthy as a salad, but it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, thanks to the fish. Sushi, in general, is known for being pretty low in calories, due to the fact that there is no added fat. 

One of the most “healthy” types of sushi is Nigiri. One piece of Nigiri typically contains around 70 calories. This means that you can have quite a few Nigiri rolls before you even reach the calorie count of a bowl of fries, and by that time you’ll probably be full already. 

With that being said, calories aren’t always the most important thing. What makes Nigiri a healthy option is that it is full of healthy fats that are great for your body.

If you are looking for a fast food option, or looking to dine out, but don’t want to overdo it, sushi is considered a great option and will leave you feeling full. 

Conclusion 

Both Nigiri and Sashimi are popular sushi dishes which can be found all over the world, but the meat used for Sashimi can differ depending on where you are. Most people will always opt for the fish version of Sashimi, as other meat options – like beef or chicken – are used to fit in with other country’s cuisines. 

One of the biggest differences between Nigiri and Sashimi, is that with Nigiri, the fish is placed on top of a rice block, but with Sashimi, the fish is served on its own. 

Jess Smith
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