[fish] // [rice]

Note: True World, which supplies many US sushiya with fish from Tsujiki, offers a very useful seasonal guide to neta varieties.  You can see it here.

The Basics (most important!)

  • Neta = in terms of sushi, this means the topping, or the fish!
  • Shari = the sushi rice, typically white rice seasoned with some combination of vinegar, sugar, and salt
  • Nigiri = the sushi (neta+shari)
  • Omakase = a term meaning "I'll leave it to you"; the format of a meal at most high-end sushi is omakase, where a chef chooses the meal for you
  • Itamae = literally means "in front of the counter", sometimes refers to an assistant sushi chef as opposed the head chef/master (sometimes called "taisho")
  • Maki = sushi in "rolled" form (the type most Americans like to eat)
  • Gunkan = a sushi style where seaweed is wrapped around the rice and topped with the neta
  • Sushiya or "sushi-yasan" = sushi shop -  I sometimes use this for brevity, and it also makes me sound cooler


  • Aburi = means "torched" or "seared"
  • Akazu = red vinegar, made from sake lees
  • Dashi = a cooking base (most commonly for soup), made typically from fish and seaweed
  • Gari = pickled ginger, served as a palate cleanser between bites
  • Gomezu = white rice vinegar, most commonly used with sushi rice
  • Kanpyo = a type of Japanese squash, usually marinated and served as maki
  • Konbu = edible kelp, often used as a base seasoning or for curing fish (as in "konbujime")
  • Kurozu = black rice vinegar, not typically used as a seasoning with sushi
  • Myoga = Japanese ginger, sometimes used as a garnish
  • Otsumami/tsumami = small appetizers or snacks served at the beginning of a meal
  • Nori = dried seaweed, used for wrapping maki or "gunkan"-style sushi
  • Ponzu = a yuzu-based sauce typically served with sashimi
  • Shio = salt
  • Shoyu = soy sauce
  • Sudachi = small green Japanese citrus, with a tart, acidic flavor
  • Tare = a seasoned soy sauce used for topping or basting (sometimes used interchangeably with 'shoyu' or 'tsume')
  • Tsume = a sweet soy-based sauce, usually used with eel or squid
  • Yuzu = small yellow Japanese citrus, most closely resembling a cross between grapefruit and orange
  • Zuke = refer to neta that have been marinated, usually in shoyu


To give some sort of format to the laundry list below, I've decided to segment fish by their type.  Books like this one (written by Nagayama-san of Dai San Harumi) are incredibly useful as a reference for this.  In practice, the universe of fishthat a sushiya might serve probably numbers in the hundreds, but the list below will probably cover 95% of what you might encounter at a typical sushi meal, over the seasons.

You'll also notice that this list doesn't include any members of the salmon/trout family.  That's because these fish (with very few exceptions) aren't typically served in Japanese sushiya and thus more commonly go by their English names.

Lean white fish (shiromi)

  • Engawa - the dorsal fin muscle of hirame or flounder 
  • Fugu - blowfish (don't worry, it's not poisonous)
  • Hirame - fluke
  • Isaki - grunt
  • Karei - flounder, of which various varieties might appears in different seasons (ex:mako-karei, same-karei)
  • Kawahagi - trigger fish, often served with a dipping sauce made from its liver (kimo) and ponzu
  • Kochi - flathead
  • Kurodai - black snapper
  • Madai - red snapper (sometimes used interchangeably with tai, but it's a different fish)
  • Suzuki - sea bass
  • Tai - sea bream

Medium-bodied white fish

  • Akamutsu - young sea perch
  • Buri - adult yellowtail, in season in early winter
  • Ebodai - butterfish
  • Hamachi - yellowtail, but also goes by different names depending on its age/size (ex: inada, warasa)
  • Hiramasa - yellowtail amberjack
  • Kamasu - barracuda
  • Kanpachi - amberjack
  • Kasugo - baby snapper
  • Kinmedai - golden-eye snapper
  • Kinki - rockfish
  • Kisu - whiting/sillago
  • Nodoguro - adult sea perch
  • Shimaaji - striped jack

Red-fleshed fish

  • Katsuo - bonito, in season during autumn and winter
  • Bincho maguro - albacore tuna
  • Kihada maguro - yellowfin tuna, the standby of lower-end sushiya
  • Mebachi maguro - big-eye tuna
  • Hon maguro - bluefin tuna, the tuna of choice for most high-end sushiya
    • Akami - lean cut
    • Chutoro - medium-fatty cut, typically from the back
    • Otoro - fatty cut, typically from the belly
    • Kamatoro - fatty cut from the jaw/jowl with beef-like marbling

Silver fish (hikari mono)

  • Aji - jack mackerel
  • Iwashi - sardine
  • Kibinago - silver herring; so tiny that 7-10 make up the same nigiri
  • Kohada - spotted sardine/shad
  • Saba - mackerel
  • Sanma - saury/pike mackerel, in season during autumn
  • Sawara - Spanish mackerel
  • Sayori - needlefish, in season during winter
  • Shinko - baby kohada, in season in mid-to-late summer
  • Tachi uo - beltfish

Shellfish/Other Fish

  • Akagai - ark-shell clam; typically found only in Japan, but in more recent years less-beautiful Mexican varieties have begun to pop up in American sushiya
  • Anago - salt-water eel, always served cooked
  • Aoyagi - orange clam
  • Awabi - abalone; sometimes served with its own liver sauce as an otsumami
  • Ika - squid; the most common type served is sumi ika (cuttlefish) but a variety of other species (aori, shin, yari) appear throughout the seasons
  • Hamaguri - bivalve clam
  • Hamo - pike eel, usually served cooked, in season in winter
  • Hokkigai - surf clam; I have only seen fresh versions in Japan
  • Hotate - scallop
  • Mirugai - giant clam
  • Namadako - giant octopus
  • Nore sore - baby eel
  • Shirauo - whitebait/icefish; another tiny fish where 5-10 are used in one nigiri
  • Tairagai - pen-shell clam, which has a similar consistency to scallops
  • Tako - octopus
  • Torigai - cockle/bird clam; beautiful, lean, and chewy
  • Unagi - freshwater eel: in Japan, typically not served as sushi but rather in specialist bbq restaurants; the stuff sold in the US is almost without exception pre-cooked and vacuum-sealed


  • Amaebi - sweet shrimp, commonly in season in the winter
  • Botan ebi - spot prawn
  • Ebi - shrimp; in high-end American sushiya, blue shrimp from the Indian Ocean are common
  • Kani - crab; in Japan notable winter types are zuwai-kani (spider crab) and kegani (hairy crab)
  • Kuruma ebi - tiger shrimp; very large, and usually only found in Japan as they don't travel well
  • Shako - mantis shrimp, which are a bit scary-looking (as one chef said, "not from tree!")
  • Shiro ebi - white shrimp (they are tiny, with dozens in a single piece of nigiri)


  • Ikura - salmon roe
  • Himo - adductor muscle from clams
  • Karasumi - dried and cured mullet roe, an expensive delicacy served in the winter
  • Kazunoko - herring roe, often dried and pressed into blocks
  • Kimo - liver, sometimes served as a otsumami (as in "ankimo") or as a topping/sauce
  • Kobashira - adductor muscle from scallops, sometimes referred to as "baby scallops"
  • Menegi - baby chives
  • Shirako - cod sperm sacs, a delicacy typically served in winter
  • Shiokara - fermented squid entrails, a delicacy usually served as otsumami
  • Tamago - sweet egg omelette flavored with mirin and dashi, and served at the end of a sushi meal; usually appears either as 1) a fluffy custard/cake ("kasutera") or 2) an omelette with tightly packed layers ("dashimaki")
  • Uni - sea urchin roe, usually one of three species (murasaki, aka, or bafun)