NIGIRI is "piece" sushi, and it's quickly becoming as popular as sushi rolls ("maki sushi") outside of Japan. Small "fingers" of seasoned sushi rice are served with various toppings, usually raw seafood, but other items as well. This is a quick and dirty guide to some of the most popular nigiri sushi in Canada...
MAGURO refers generally to tuna. Tuna may be "red" (pictured below) as with bigeye, ahi or bluefin tuna. Bluefin is considered the "King of Tuna" but has been fished to the brink of extinction. Albacore tuna is a white tuna with a mild flavour and melt in your mouth texture.
"Red" tuna served nigiri style
TORO is the fatty belly part of the tuna. It's sometimes served as NEGITORO with finely chopped green onion. Ordering TORO means paying a premium price! In Japan, there are several different "grades" of TORO depending on how much fat is present and the degree of marbling.
Various cuts of TORO
SAKE. The pronounciation is almost the same as the alcoholic drink, but refers in sushi terms to raw salmon. Not a traditional "NETA" (topping) in Japan, salmon is usually served salted and grilled. Salmon served raw must be frozen to kill potential parasites. Fresh and seasonal fish is always preferred in Japan for sushi and sashimi, which is why salmon was not traditionally served raw.
Sockeye salmon nigiri is here cut "Tokyo" style, long thin slices of fish draped on the rice
EBI are cooked large prawns. AMAEBI are raw "sweet" prawns. EBI are very popular in western countries; AMAEBI are a Japanese favourite.
EBI are cooked prawns, AMAEBI are different species served raw
UNAGI is a BBQ freshwater eel served warm with a sweet and savoury "kabayaki" sauce (below left)
ANAGO is sea eel prepared in a similar fashion (below right) Both are rich and fatty and also popular served over steamed rice as DONBURI (rice bowls).
IKA is squid, usually just the "tube" is used at Canadain sushi bars but in Japan, "fairy" squid are small and served whole.
TAKO is octopus, usually blanched, to provide a crunchy and chewy texture at the same time. It has a mild flavour; similar to squid and cuttlefish. Depending on the Chef, it may be garnished with a hint of sauce.
HIRAME is flounder, fluke, or other kind of flatfish. Halibut is usually called OHYO. The meat taken from the edge of the flat fin is particularly prized and goes by the name ENGAWA.
Scallops are HOTATE, served whole and they may be garnished with tiny TOBIKO (fish roe) to add a hint of saltiness to the sweet scallops. Chopped scallop is popular too, mixed with mayonaisse and tobiko.