Nigiri and sashimi are often both referred to as sushi. However, only nigiri is officially classed as sushi. Nigiri looks like “traditional” sushi, with specialized sushi rice formed into a small oval and topped with fresh, raw fish, with minimal garnishes.
Sashimi is not served with rice and is composed of very thin slices of fresh fish or meat, presented beautifully, and served with garnishes like toasted nori and shredded daikon radish.
Comparison Chart: Is Nigiri the Same as Sashimi?
At first glance, nigiri and sashimi seem similar. But these Japanese foods have more differences than similarities.
|What is it?||Made of pressed sushi rice, formed into balls and treated with vinegar, with a thin layer of fresh, raw fish placed over the top.||Made up of thinly sliced raw fish, occasionally slices of fresh, raw meat. Salmon and tuna are the most commonly used fish in sashimi.|
|Is it almost raw?||Almost always served raw, with a topping of raw fish, although it can be served with cooked fish.||Always served raw.|
|Is it seafood?||Yes. Nigiri usually includes raw fish. Other kinds of seafood like shrimp, octopus, and squid can be included.||Yes, but a sashimi dish can include slices of beef, chicken, or other meats.|
|Does it include rice?||Yes. The pressed and shaped rice bed is a crucial part of nigiri sushi.||No, sashimi is not served with rice.|
|Is it sushi?||Yes.||No.|
|Common accompaniments||Wasabi, soy sauce, and pickled ginger.||Pickled ginger, soy sauce, and wasabi.|
|Garnishes||Minimal garnishes. Occasionally, sauces are added to a nigiri dish.||Shredded daikon radish, toasted nori, shiso leaves, and a variety of sauces.|
|Cutlery||Can be eaten with chopsticks or your hands.||Always eaten with chopsticks.|
Nigiri is a Japanese sushi dish and comprises pressed, vinegared rice topped with a slice of fresh, raw fish. As one of the simplest sushi dishes to make, nigiri is a great place to start for people who haven’t tried sushi before.
How to Eat and Serve Nigiri
Nigirizushi, commonly called nigiri, is served simply, with thin slices of raw seafood topping an oblong rice bed. The rice is molded and shaped by the chef’s fingers and is sometimes secured with a strip of nori (toasted seaweed).
Nigiri is served with minimal garnishes and accompaniments and is designed to be eaten with chopsticks or with your fingers, due to its neat and compact shape.
Like most sushi dishes, you can expect to find soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi accompanying a nigiri dish.
History of Nigiri
Nigiri is part of a rich and varied list of sushi dishes. It’s one of the most popular sushi dishes and can be served alongside other sushi dishes, such as oshizushi, onigiri, and more.
The name “nigiri” directly translates from Japanese to “two fingers”, and refers to the way the rice is pressed and molded between the chef’s fingers.
Nigiri originated in Japan and has been served in Japan for decades, in various forms and with different types of seafood. Nigri’s popularity continues to this day, with nigiri being a favorite type of sushi all over the world.
Sushi is usually healthy, especially if the sushi is made using fatty, oily fish like salmon, which contains essential omega 3 fatty acids. Wasabi, toasted nori, and pickled ginger are all high in nutrients and are also healthy in moderate amounts.
However, nigiri is often served with high-salt soy sauce. The white rice served with nigiri is high in refined carbs and has been stripped of all minerals and fiber content.
This means that sushi is fine in small amounts, but overconsumption of nigiri (presuming you use a lot of soy sauce and refined white rice) won’t be healthy.
Where to Buy
You can buy nigiri in most sushi restaurants. You might also find nigiri as part of a prepackaged sushi platter in a store. The price for nigiri can vary — for example, if you go to a sushi restaurant, your nigiri rolls could cost a lot more than a sushi platter from a store.
On average, a set of basic vegetable sushi rolls (usually served in twos) cost around $7.95 per roll. Certain types of fish (for example, salmon) cost more.
Sashimi is a Japanese delicacy consisting of thinly sliced pieces of fish and meat, presented without rice and with other accompaniments, like daikon radish and toasted nori. Sashimi dishes are known for their beautiful presentation and versatility.
How to Eat and Serve Sashimi
Sashimi is not a sushi dish, but it can be found in many sushi restaurants. Commonly served as a starter course, sashimi is known as a fine and flavorsome dish and is usually consumed before any stronger flavors can affect the palate.
You can use seafood or meat to create a sashimi dish, but it must be fresh and thinly sliced. Preparation is key in sashimi dishes, and creating sashimi is an artistic process.
History of Sashimi
The word “sashimi” comes from the Japanese word “pierced flesh/body/meat.” This could refer to an old tradition of piercing a sushi roll or seafood dish with the fins of the fish that was used to make the dish so that consumers would know what kind of seafood was in their food. The meaning of “sashimi” could also refer to a method of catching fish.
Sashimi is not served with refined, vinegared rice, like sushi dishes. This means that there are fewer refined carbs in a sashimi dish.
If sashimi includes fatty fish, like salmon, sashimi can be a healthy dish that provides plenty of omega 3 fatty acids. The fish or meat in sashimi should be of the highest quality, with some seafood and meats advertised as “sashimi grade” quality.
Sashimi can include meat, which is a source of iron, and vegetables. The dish usually includes soy sauce, which contains a high level of sodium.
Where to Buy
Although sashimi isn’t a sushi dish, you can find it in many sushi restaurants. Unlike nigiri, which can be found in prepackaged sushi platters, sashimi is harder than nigiri to store and prepare. Sashimi is made using raw meat, and fish (without rice) can be off-putting to some buyers.
One crucial element of sashimi is its high-quality fish or meat. Sub-par meat can lead to illness or a sub-par sashimi experience.
For example, 1.5kg of sashimi-grade tuna can cost around $80. You’re more likely to find suitable sashimi-grade meat and fish at Japanese fish markets. In a restaurant, the price of a sashimi dish can vary, depending on the quality, size, and type of meat/fish that you want.
Choosing Nigiri vs Sashimi
If you enjoy sushi, you’ll likely enjoy both sashimi and nigiri. However, sashimi contains more raw meat and fish than nigiri, with no rice to add texture, so if you don’t enjoy the texture of raw fish or don’t want to eat raw meat at all, you’ll prefer to eat raw meat at all nigiri. For a quick meal on the go or an informal lunch with friends, nigiri is a better choice. However, for a formal sit-down meal or simply to try something new, sashimi is the dish for you.
If neither sashimi nor nigiri appeals to you due to the raw fish content, you may be interested in trying onigiri or rice balls. Onigiri is a ball of rice, pressed and wrapped in nori and sometimes topped with caviar or something similar. The rice balls have a variety of fillings, including fish, meat, and vegetables. Onigiri is not a form of sushi and is easy to eat and readily available.