There are two types of sushi: nigiri and maki. They differ primarily in the way they are prepared and presented.
Nigiri is a bite-size rectangular mound of rice topped with a piece of sashimi. There may be a small amount of wasabi between the fish and rice to hold the two together, or a thin strip of toasted seaweed might be used to tie them. The word “nigiri” means “two fingers,” which describes the size of the rice.
Although most nigiri is made with sashimi-grade fish laid over the top of rice, not all nigiri contains raw fish. Some types of seafood, including eel (unagi) and shrimp (ebi) are cooked before being combined with the rice. Tamago nigiri is made with a special kind of sweet egg, similar to an omelet, combined with rice and nori (seaweed).
Maki, on the other hand, is the type of sushi you are probably most familiar with. Maki is made in rolls and sliced into round bite-size pieces. In a maki roll, the fish, vegetables or other ingredients are rolled up inside of seaweed (nori) and vinegared rice. The outside may be sprinkled with fish roe, sesame seeds or other ingredients.
Maki may contain pieces of raw or cooked seafood. However, there are fish-free varieties such as the cucumber roll and avocado roll. If you’d like to try sushi but are nervous about raw fish, you may want to try one of these cooked or vegetarian rolls as a delicious introduction to sushi. Later, if you’re feeling bold, you can try sampling some nigiri or sashimi to see the amazing flavor possibilities of top-quality seafood.