There are several different kinds of food that fall under the all-encompassing category of what we as Americans refer to as ‘sushi’. The most commonly known variety, that of makizushi is a long roll consisting of rice, nori and fillings that has been cut into 6-8 pieces. Nigiri usually consists of just a piece of raw fish over a chunk of rice. Sashimi is just a piece of raw fish.
Makizushi is normally divided in two varieties. Futomaki, or ‘fat sushi’ consists of a layer of nori on the outside, then sticky rice, then at least two different fillings in the middle. Hosomaki, or ‘thin maki’ usually is consisted of just one ingredient in the middle, usually a piece of raw fish, although vegetables and fruits may be used. If the nori is rolled up inside the roll instead of showing on the outside, it is called uramaki, or inside-out maki. This was first done because Americans did not like seeing the green nori on the outside of the roll.
Some of the most common varieties of maki rolls have sprung up especially to appeal and satisfy Western palates and cuisine. These are not technically considered to be authentic Japanese sushi, but they are very popular and can be very tasty.
The most common and ‘westernized’ recipe for maki rolls is the California roll. The California roll is usually made inside out and holds imitation crab, cucumber and avocado. The outside of the roll is sometimes covered with tobiko, or flying fish roe. The California roll is popular because it is seen as a ‘no-risk’ sushi, because it doesn’t have any raw fish. It came about from a Japanese sushi chef in Los Angeles in the 1970s who realized that the oily texture of avacodo was a perfect stand-in for raw tuna, which the original recipe called for. The California Roll is credited with spreading sushi’s popularity in the United States.
A common variant of the California roll is the Boston roll. In the Boston roll, the imitation crab meat is replaced with poached shrimp. The cucumber, avocado, rice and nori remain the same. Often, spicy sauce is added to a Boston roll, either in the roll on on the top.
A spicy shrimp roll is another variation on traditional sushi certain to appeal more to Westernized palates. It uses poached shrimp, like the Boston roll, but the shrimp is diced instead of whole. The spicy sauce is required now, and the avacado is replaced with sliced scallions. The spicy shrimp roll is usually made as an outside thick roll, but can also be rolled as a hand roll or a ship roll. It is on occasion topped with thinly sliced myoga.
Tuna roll is one of the simplest kinds of maki sushi to prepare. In Japanese, it is referred to as tekkimaki. It only consists of sushi rice, nori, and sashimi-grade tuna (raw tuna). The tuna roll is traditionally rolled up outside thick or thin, depending on preference.
Dynamite rolls are a different take on a traditional tuna roll. In sushi fusion, dynamite refers to something spicy. Dynamite rolls are tuna rolls with spicy mayonnaise drizzled over them. The mayonnaise is then burned with a chef’s torch.
The spicy tuna roll is a little less basic than the regular tuna roll. It is made with tuna trimmings prepared into spicy tuna mix instead of slices of tuna. Spicy tuna is made with tuna trimmings, scallions, chili oil, and some Japanese mayonnaise. The chopped tuna may also have cream added to it to make the consistency silkier. It is then combined with cucumber bits to make a traditional spicy tuna roll. It is usually rolled as an outside thick roll.
The Tijuana roll is served as an outside thin roll. It consists of thinly sliced yellow tail tuna and sliced jalapeno peppers. It doesn’t need any wasabi because the jalapeno is already spicy.
The spider roll is an especially weird looking sushi roll made with tempura-fried soft-shell crab rolled by itself. It is usually rolled as an outside thick roll with the legs sticking out.
The Michigan roll is a variation of the traditional spicy tuna roll that has smelt roe spicy sauce and avocado to balance the spiciness of the tuna. It is usually rolled as an outside thick roll.
Aside from maki rolls, another common kind of sushi is nigiri sushi. Nigiri sushi doesn’t always have nori, like the maki rolls do, and usually just consists of a piece of raw fish over a ball of sushi rice. Different sauces or seasonings may be used, but it is essentially just some kind of raw fish and sushi rice.