As you can see, a rainbow roll offers all the colors of the rainbow—at least, the colors that exist in the fish case at the sushi bar. Photo courtesy SF Sushi Bars.





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July 2007
Last Updated January 2018

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Fish, Seafood & Caviar

All Types Of Sushi & Sashimi

Page 7: Terms Including Rainbow Roll, Sashimi, Shiso and Other Terms With Q, R & S


All types of sushi and sashimi, with delicious pictures. If you enjoy this Sushi Glossary, we have a food glossary for almost every category of food. On this page you’ll find explanations for Rainbow Roll and Salmon Skin Roll, favorite garnishes shiso and shoga, and much more. Check out the Seafood Glossary, too.



Click on a letter to get to the appropriate glossary page.

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A raw quail egg yolk is frequently served in a gunkan-maki (boat roll) atop crunchy tobiko, flying fish roe. The creamy egg yolk contrasted with the crunchy fish roe is considered a delicacy. Quail is uzura, egg is tamago.


A reverse roll with strips of variously colored fish and often, avocado, placed diagonally across the top of the sushi roll (the Japanese term is tazuna sushi). The inside can be tuna, a California roll or whatever the chef wishes. See photo above.


Quail egg and tobiko in a gunkan-maki, or boat roll. Photo courtesy



Red clam is imported frozen from Japan. The red color comes from hemoglobin in the flesh. It is a tradition to rinse the clam in rice vinegar prior to serving, since some people find the natural scent of the clam to be strong. However, over time, people have become accustomed to it. Ask the sushi chef if it has been rinsed, just so you’ll know if you are tasting vinegar or the natural flavor of the clam.


  Red Clam
Red clam. Photo courtesy MorgueFile.

Lotus root (photo at right).


Fish eggs, or caviar. You can make a “roe tasting” of ikura (salmon roe), kazunoko (herring roe), masago (smelt roe), mentaiko (spicy cod roe), tarako (Alaska pollock roe), tobiko (flying fish roe) and uni (the gonad of the sea urchin). Don’t forget to add uzura no tamago (quail egg), on top either tobiko or uni—or any of the others.


Lotus root. Photo courtesy

Mackerel. Mackerel is not served completely raw, but is one of those fish that is cured in rice vinegar with some salt because it spoils quickly. Different types of mackerel can be found at sushi bars, including aji (Spanish mackerel also called horse mackerel), sanma (Japanese mackerel) and sawara (Spanish mackerel). Marinated mackerel is shime-saba. Fresh mackerel, not marinated, is saba-no-tataki.  Also see sawara, below.


Saba, or mackerel, nigiri sushi. Photo courtesy MorgueFile.

This term means “without wasabi” (if you’d like to request your sushi with no wasabi).


Salmon, pronounced SAH-keh, has glistening orange flesh, which makes it one of the more colorful pieces on the sushi or sashimi plate. It has a wonderful, unctuous texture like toro and yellowtail, but (along with mackerel) much higher levels of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. In addition to being served plain and in spicy salmon rolls, the skin of the salmon, which tastes very different from the flesh, is often grilled and served in a hand roll (temaki).



Salmon Sashimi Roll With Spicy Salmon
Sashimi: salmon wrapped around spicy salmon. Photo courtesy


Pronounced sah-KAY. Distilled rice wine, pronounced sah-KEH. It is served hot or cold, depending on the quality. Note that unlike regular wine, saké is a distilled product and meant to be drunk young, not aged. Read more about saké in our our Introduction To Saké article and our Saké Glossary.



Ocean trout.


See sake, above.




Salmon nigiri sushi. Photo courtesy Genji Sushi.

The skin of a smoked salmon is broiled and served, hot and crunchy, generally with cucumber, in a hand roll (temaki). It also can be served in a regular roll (maki); and we have seen grilled salmon skin served sashimi-style, on a plate with no rice. A concept invented in America, salmon skin is considered a delicacy, although prior to its adoption by sushi chefs, the skin was thrown away.


Salmon skin roll. Photo Sushi Haven | U.K.

Called sansho in Japan, this is Sichuan (or Szechuan) pepper. It is not true pepper like black peppercorns. The outer pod of the tiny fruit harvested from of a number of species of evergreen shrubs in the genus Zanthoxylum, known as the prickly ash. Learn more about types of pepper in our Varietal Peppercorn Glossary.


Japanese mackerel.



Sansho, or Szechuan pepper. Photo courtesy Sansho Daiko.

Sliced raw fish, generally served with a bowl of plain, steamed rice (not sushi rice, which is prepared with vinegar and sugar). The word literally means “pierced body.” No one is certain of the origin, but it may have come from the former practice of sticking the tail and fin of the fish on the slices, to let it be known which fish one was eating. Regardless, it must be interesting as a native Japanese speaker to order a “pierced body” platter. While there is no rice implied in the term sashimi, it is generally served with a bowl of plain, boiled white rice.



Sashimi. Photo  © Directphoto |




See grade of fish.



Springtime halfbeak, a fish not often found in the U.S.

Spanish mackerel. See also aji.


See suzuki.



See madai.


Spanish mackerel, sawara in Japanese. Photo courtesy Sushi 311.


Sea urchins (uni in Japanese) are small, spiny, globular animals related to sand dollars. Because they are a challenge to harvest, they are one of the more expensive items at the sushi bar.

There are different species, with shades from black to blue, brown, green, purple and red. The name “urchin” is an archaic word for hedgehog, which the spiny sea urchins resemble (photo below). Also see uni.


Uni Gunkan Maki
Above: uni, sea urchin roe, in gunkan-maki (boat rolls, photo copyright Beryl } Three’s Company | Flickr). At left: the roe seen in a halved sea urchin shell (photo courtesy Santa Alicia Winery.

Young sea bass.


Thin, crisp rice crackers, flavored with soy sauce (or other seasonings). Senbei can be crumbled and added to sushi rolls for crunch, flavor and decoration, in the manner of panko.


Mantis shrimp, feisty crustaceans that are neither shrimp but get their name from their combined resemblance to shrimp and the praying mantis. About 12 inches in length, they have powerful claws that they use to kill prey, and can snap a finger from a diver. Mantis shrimp have been known to break through aquarium glass with a single strike from a claw.


Rice crackers, or senbei. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


A plastic or wooden flat spoon used to scoop and serve rice.


A sushi bar term for sushi rice.




Literally, “seven flavor chili,” the components of this Japanese spice blend, used as a table spice, vary by region. One of the most popular table seasonings in Japan, it is used to add both heat and flavor to everything from beef tataki, rice, soba noodles and udon.

The seven spices can include black, white and toasted sesame seeds; cayenne; ginger; nori; shiso seeds and Szechuan pepper. Here’s more about it, plus recipes.



Striped horse mackerel. This variety of horse mackerel, caught by pole off the Izu Peninsula is possibly the best mackerel in Japan. The generic name for all mackerel is called aji (photo).


Shichimi Togarashi

Shichimi togarashi, Japanese seven spice, is available at many supermarkets. McCormick makes a version (photo Yahoo | Colourbox).


Marinated mackerel for raw consumption, as opposed to fresh mackerel for cooking (saba-no-tataki). Raw mackerel is marinated to cure it, both as a spoilage preventative (some fish spoil more quickly) and as an anti-parasitic.


The photo at right shows a beautiful cross-section of mackerel pressed sushi (oshizushi), with its silvery skin and rosy flesh.


Also see kaninohazushi, where persimmon leaves are additionally used to cure mackerel.




Whitebait, served as several tiny white bait fish in a gunkan-style boat wrap.


Albacore tuna. Photo courtesy


White sesame seeds (shiro=white, goma=sesame seeds).


Albacore, or white, tuna. Not to be confused with escolar, a problematic fish that is often sold as “white tuna.”


Literally, white meat (shiro=white, dane=meat). About a dozen varieties of sashimi and sushi fish fall into this category, including hamachi (yellowtail), hirame(flute/flounder/halibut), kanpachi (older yellowtail), karei (flounder), shiro-maguro, above and tai (snapper).



Albacore tuna. Photo courtesy

Perilla is a genus of herb that is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae and is grown primarily in East Asia and India. Its botanical name is Perilla frutescens var. japonica, and it has a fennel-mint-like flavor (in Nepal and parts of India, it is called silam and is also called ohba). In North America perilla is called by its Japanese name, shiso, since most people have made its acquaintance through sushi bars. There are both green-leafed and purple-leafed varieties. Red shiso is slightly less spicy than green shiso, with an anise flavor. The Japanese use it to color umeboshi (plum paste) and shoga (pickled ginger), as a seasoning with tofu (bean curd) dishes and wrapped around pieces of meat as green shiso is wrapped around raw fish.


Shiso leaf. Photo courtesy

In addition to sushi and sashimi, green shiso is added to soups, fried in tempura or dried and sprinkled over rice. The shiso leaf may be viewed by some Americans as decorative garnish, but it is a delicious and costly addition to a sashimi plate (or to a sushi roll: negi-hamachi-shiso, yellowtail with scallions and shiso leaf, is an exquisite combination). In addition to its flavor, shiso is rich in calcium and iron and has anti-inflammatory properties. Along with the leaves, the the flower buds and the seeds collected at the end of the season are sprinkled on salad and rice. The seeds are often added to shichimi, the “seven spices of Japan” a blend that was developed more than 300 years ago in Kyoto.


Ginger root. Many people erroneously learn this as the word for pickled ginger, when they ask for the word for “ginger” at a Japanese restaurant. However, they mean to ask for the word for “pickled ginger,” which is gari.

There is a separate type of shoga, beni-shoga, that is colored red and cut into small, thin strips as a garnish for food other than sushi.


Ginger Root

Shoga, ginger root. Photo by Jan Schone | SXC.


Soy sauce, a salty sauce made from fermented soybeans. There are all levels of quality, from “supermarket level” to artisan soy sauces. As with any other products, you can taste the difference. The finest soy sauces aren’t merely salty: You can taste a winey flavor and the beans themselves. Usukuchi shoyu is “light” soy sauce.

See ebi, ama-ebi and odori-ebi.


Buckwheat noodles.


Sushi made with soba instead of rice.


In this American invention, originally developed to hide the discoloration of older tuna, toubanjan (Chinese hot paste) and shichimi (red pepper flakes) are often blended into mayonnaise and mixed with the chopped fish. An American chile pepper sauce like Tabasco, mixed with mayonnaise, or plain hot chile oil, or hot chile oil, can be used instead. The dish became so popular that spicy salmon, spicy salmon and spicy yellowtail are now commonly found.



Spicy tuna roll: the tuna can be cut (above) or chopped (below). Top photo courtesy Benihana, bottom photo courtesy Ten Zan.

An American invention, this is a roll, often prepared in the uramkai (inside-out) style, consisting of of tempura-fried soft shell crab and vegetables, The legs of the crab stick out at either end of the cut roll, resembling the legs of a spider (well, a very tasty spider).


Spider Roll

Spider roll. Photo courtesy

See ika.


Rice vinegar. Part of the derivation of the word, sushi. Rice is shi in Japanese.  (Photo at right.)


Clear soup, based on a fish stock. It is generally offered as an alternative to miso soup prior to the sushi or sashimi.


Toro sinew, served grilled.



Bits and pieces of  fish scraped from the bones of salmon, tuna and yellowtail, to be used in rolls.


Rice Vinegar

Su, rice vinegar. Photo by Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.


Vinegared foods, as distinguished from aemono (a puréed tofu dressing/sauce) or oshinko (pickled vegetables). A sunomono “salad” of vinegar-marinated bean sprouts can often be found on Japanese restaurant menus.


See hokkigai.



Cucumbers marinated in vinegar. Here’s the recipe from Cooking the Globe.



Surimi refers to a paste made from inexpensive fish, flavored, colored and shaped to look like a more desirable ingredient. It made in many shapes, forms, and textures. The most commonly found variety in the U.S. is imitation crab meat, also sold as crab stick, mock crab and sea leg; and in kamaboko, fish sausage.

The earliest surimi was developed in Asia centuries ago (more). There is also meat surimi, made from ground meat and poultry. And artistic surimi: Take a look at these beauties.



Fish sausage made from ground fish paste, surimi. Photo (c) copyright Asian.

A variety of preparations made with vinegared rice. Contrary to popular opinion, sushi does not mean “raw fish,” but “vinegar rice”: su = vinegar, shi = rice. See Zushi for issues of correct spelling. There is vegetarian sushi as well as sushi made with cooked fish and with raw and cooked meat. The main types of sushi are maki sushi (rolls, including temaki, hand rolls), nigiri sushi (slices of fish on pads of rice) and oshi-sushi, (rice with fish and other toppings molded in a wood box and cut into bite-size rectangles or squares). The photo at left shows, clockwise, salmon and tuna sashimi, cucumber and tuna rolls (maki), and four nigiri: shrimp, yellowtail, salmon and tuna.


Sushi & Sashimi Combination

A classic presentation of sushi and sashimi in a lacquered tray. Photo courtesy Bowne.



In Japan the sushi bar is a relaxed and informal alternative to a restaurant. True aficionados sit at the actual sushi bar on a stool, watching the itamae (sushi chef) prepare the selections.



In the mash-up food culture of 2014-2015, the sushi burrito joined the ranks of the the Bruffin (brioche and muffin), the Cragel (croissant and bagel), the the Creffel (French crepe and Belgian waffle), the Cronut (croissant and donut), the Scuffin (scone and muffin) and the Wookie (waffle and cookie). Two fast-casual concepts—Sushirrito in the San Francisco area and Komotodo Sushi Burrito in Denver—launched overstuffed Mexican tortillas packed with sushi ingredients as well as cooked foods (chicken, fish, steak).


A sushi burrito with grilled sirloin steak. Photo courtesy Komotodo Sushi Burrito.

The type of “meat” (i.e., fish): white meat, red meat and “shining fish” (silvery meat, hikari-mono).



Sea bass. Also called black sea bass, the fish has a delicate white color with red stripes on the skin. The flavor is delicate as well.


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