Among Sushi Glossary (sushi definitions, sushi terminology, sushi terms, sushi vocabulary, sushi jargon), there is a word called “Fucho (符牒)” which is unfamiliar even to Japanese. It would be cool if you knew, but it wouldn’t be embarrassing even if you didn’t. However, these terms are used between pros. It seems senseless if customers use them and sushi chefs might find it off-putting. In order to avoid this type of situation, We have made a collection of terms, their meanings, and origins.
To bring out the deliciousness by searing the skin and melting the fat. Used on a type of fish with fat between its skin and meat. This technique involves exposing ingredients to direct heat to cook or dry them. Traditionally this was done over an open charcoal flame, but nowadays it’s quite common to use a gas flame.
A Japanese sushibar term for green tea. A term for green tea at a Japanese sushi bar, which helps freshen the mouth by washing away any fatty taste.
This is fish that have died naturally without being killed after being caught. Or, fish that was killed after being caught, but the rigor mortis has worn off earlier than planned and become soft. This type of fish has a significantly lower commercial value.
Red vinegar made from sake lees, characterized by a strong flavor, slight sweetness and its reddish color.
It generally refers to red-colored meat like beef and fish meat. The typical Akami fish are tuna and bonito.
Things that are older. Food ingredients that need to be used earlier. The opposite of this word is “Otouto”.
Parts of a fish left over after it is cut and trimmed, such as its head and backbone.
The remaining parts after filleting a fish are used to create ara-jiru. The parts are boiled to create dashi. Any seasoning and ingredient can be added.
A red-colored component found in organisms such as salmon, shrimp, and crab. It has been drawing an attention for having an excellent antioxidative effect and oxidation prevention.
Asatsuki chive and green shiso leaf are ground in a mortar until sticky, and ginger juice is added as a condiment.
Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) other than the ones from Izu Amagi, which is called “Honbamono“.
Oshizushi of mackerel, a specialty of the Kansai region. Initially, it was not square-shaped sushi pressed with a box-like it is now. It looked like a boat and it is said that the name “battera” originally comes from the Portuguese word meaning boat.
Items such as conger eels and abalones, whose taste varies with the season and whose prices fluctuate wildly, are flash-frozen by CAS in season and stored in a -60°C freezer.
CAS is a freezing technology that makes it possible to significantly reduce the freshness, texture, flavor, and color of foodstuffs, all of which are impaired by conventional freezing technology. Developed in 1997 by Abbey Co., Ltd.
CAS (CELLS ALIVE SYSTEM) is a technology that manages water molecules to keep cellular tissue undamaged.
Inside the freezer, a special CAS generator is used to vibrate the water molecules in the cellular tissue. By doing so, the ice crystals generated are miniaturized without allowing water to cluster together, and the cell walls and cell membranes of the foodstuff are protected while being frozen.
In other words, this freezing method keeps food fresh for years.
Once the temperature has dropped sufficiently in the supercooled state, a small shock is applied to freeze the entire food at once. The ice formed at this time is not large crystals but a collection of tiny ice grains, so it does not damage cell membranes.
Foods frozen by CAS freezing do not drip when thawed, and the water in the cells is not lost.
This dish is made by steaming a mixture of beaten eggs and dashi in a particular shaped ceramic cup with a lid. Shrimp, shitake mushroom, ginkgo, and mitsuba are common ingredients added to the mixture.
Chiai is the part with the most veins, so it is a dark red color. It has a strong odor of blood and has multiple times the acidity of lean meat, so it is not used as a sushi topping.
Regular rice that is not vinegared.
Fish, whose head and internal organs have been removed.
Edomae sushi means sushi using fish from the sea that lies before the Edo town. Although the fishes caught only in Tokyo Bay are not enough to feed numerous sushi lovers. The excellent work of Edomae sushi chef in which the ingredients are vinegared or seasoned with soy sauce after salted, a common method for longer preservation.
Fukinjime is made by placing mackerel that has been marinated in vinegar on top of a wet dishcloth that has been wrung out completely, then placing shari needed into a long, rodlike shape on top of the fish. The combination is then wrapped tightly in the cloth. This state is called “Fukinjime”. From the side, the Fukinjime should be a fan-shape (boat shape).
To sprinkle salt lightly all over an ingredient. Causing an effect of making it salted, extracting moisture, and tightening its texture.
Shigezo Fujimoto was also the first sushi chef to sprinkle grated yuzu peel (Furi-yuzu) on conger eel, using a grater to make the yuzu zest. This is now just considered to be common practice.
It means Squilla. The Japanese word for Squilla is “shako,” which is a homonym for the Japanese word for “Garage”, giving birth to this slang term.
A sushi-bar term for pickled ginger. Pickled ginger that helps cleanse the palate after eating fatty sushi-like Otoro.
Wooden sushi plate
Relatively low-cost sushi ingredients, such as gizzard shad and horse mackerel. Bluefin tuna used to be also called gezakana in the Edo period, for losing its freshness easily.
Cover mackerel generously with salt after cutting into three filets. Shake enough salt so that it looks like a road covered with a layer of pure white snow. This technique of salting is called strong salting (go-jio).
Sushi made by wrapping dried seaweed around vinegared rice, topped with salmon roe and sea urchin which is easy to crumble on top.
It refers to salt. It is a remnant of the area called Gyotoku in Chiba Prefecture, which prospered from salt fields.
To throw away a part of something or the whole thing that cannot be used for ingredients.
For your information, using Handai (a wooden sushi rice mixing bowl) is a simple shortcut to make delicious sushi rice. You could use a regular bowl instead, but Handai absorbs excess water and prevents sushi rice from getting soggy. If you want to hold a successful sushi party at home, I highly recommend using Handai on this occasion.
Plant leaves used as dividers and decorations when sushi is served. Mostly bamboo leaves in the Kanto region.
Referring to when fish have just started to come on the market and they are highly sought after even though they are still not mature in flavor.
Fish sliced for serving with the silver fish skin left on. Typical of Iwashi, Aji, Sayori, Sanma, Kohada
Mantle of shell
Hirazukuri (平作り) : Hiragiri (平切り)
A method of cutting which gives thickness to each slice so that the texture of sashimi can be enjoyable. This is mainly used for tuna.
This is the most traditional way of making sushi. There is no pause in action and it takes about 3 seconds to get it done like a flow of water. Because this method needs more grips compared to Kotegaeshi, and there is a process of transferring sushi from the left palm to the other, the movements are more complicated. And although this shapes sushi firmly and makes it look beautiful, the heat from the palms passes on to sushi toppings easily. Therefore sushi needs to be formed quickly, and there aren’t even many experienced chefs who handle this well. The sushi chefs who can use this method are as follows.
Sugiyama Mamoru (杉山 衛:「寿司幸」)
Matsunami Junichiro (松波順一郎:「鮨松波」)
Araki Mitsuhiro (荒木水都弘:「The Araki」)
Kibatani Mitsuhiro (木場谷光洋:「鮨木場谷」)
Noguchi Shiro (野口四郎:「金多楼」)
Konishi Akio (小西亜紀央: 「二葉鮨」)
This is a method of cutting off the medulla oblongata and aorta of a fish, essentially keeping the body alive while killing the fish. There is also a method of inserting a thin wire, like a piano wire, into the backbone. This technique paralyzes the nerves while at the same time suppressing the putrefied substance that comes from the spinal cord. Using the Ikejime method extends the time until rigor mortis starts, and makes it easier to maintain freshness, while at the same time preventing raw fish odor and damage to the body by inserting a butcher knife into the base of the tail to drain the blood and keep oxidized blood from running throughout the body.
Refers to the fish which is distributed alive in a water tank and such, in order to be used for ikejime. Sometimes it also means the fish after Ikejime is done.
A dish using fish such as red seabream. Cut off meat for making sashimi and leave its head, tail and large bone as the way they are. Then put all back to get her in its original form.
The squid is momentarily immersed in a boiling mixture of soy sauce, mirin and other ingredients and then stuffed with Shari, Kanpyo and maybe other ingredients.
A traditional Japanese seasoning made by boiling down Japanese sake with pickled plums etc.
A method to cut slender-shaped fish, literally cut into thin strips like threads (ito). Used for fish such as yariika, surumeika, kisu and sayori.
A quick trick to form sushi. After putting shari on a sushi topping, use only the left hand and rotate sushi to shape and serve directly from the left hand. This was the method of the times when sushi was provided at sushi stands.
A shape that curves down on each side, like the edges of the paper of a folding fan. This is the ideal shape of nigiri-sushi when viewed from the side.
It means maturing. By preserving fish in a refrigerator with adequate water content and temperature, the umami taste will be condensed. The maturing period is usually a couple of days, sometimes it lasts for weeks.
Kamijio is a technique to add a slightly salty flavor by sandwiching fish (such as plain flavored white-flesh fish and adductor muscle) between misted washi (Japanese paper) with water, and sprinkling salt over both sides of washi. The amount of salt using here should be less than furijio. After letting it sit for a couple of hours, it will be salted lightly through washi.
A unit for counting sushi
Using one side of a fish’s body to make sushi.
One-sided love: Abalone, for having a shell on only one side of its body.
This dashi is taken from katsuobushi (Shaved dried bonito). Katsuo-bushi is made by boiling the bonito, drying until it becomes rock solid, then thinly shaving it. These shavings are simmered in hot water to make katuso-dashi. The flavor and aroma are rich and the color of the stock is clear amber.
Small cuts onto the ingredients in order to make it look beautiful.
Kazu no Fucho（数の符丁）
When amateur sushi customers hear the practice of, “Kazu no Fucho,” when paying the bill, they get uneasy. Perhaps you’ve been in this situation. It’s not used very often today, but let’s break it down for reference. 1 is “pin,” 2 is “nonoji,” (or “ryan”), 3 is “geta,” 4 is “dari,” 5 is “menoji,” etc.
Make slits onto the firm ingredients in order to make it easier to bite.
It means Cucumber. There are a few theories as to where the name for the Kappa roll came about. Some say it’s because the legendary “Kappa” creature’s favorite food is cucumber while others say it’s because the appearance of the sushi resembles the head of the Kappa.
To cut fish for sushi topping shapes after slicing into three fillets and taking off skin, bones and such.
Dried gourd shavings.
The fish ingredients marinated between sheets of kelp and then let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Koku refers to rich, strong, or heavy flavors imparted by ingredients like oils, fats, sugars, and umami. Koku is the opposite of a light taste.
Powdered horseradish (a.k.a. wasabi daikon), which is reasonable but has a weak flavor.
This dashi is made by simmering konbu and is sometimes called konbu-dashi. Due to its subtle flavor, konbu-dashi is used to compliment other flavors. It is full of components that provide umami and the more fibrous the better. Ma-konbu, rishiri-konbu, and rausu-konbu are popular strains.
This method of making sushi is very popular these days. Because it takes fewer steps to press sushi into shape, most sushi chefs prefer to use this. The basic way is to put sushi on the left palm (opposite for a left-handed person) and shape it by changing direction with the right fingers. It is difficult to press not too hard in order to let the appropriate amount of air into shari, it requires a lot of training.
Purple layer seaweed pressed into thin sheets. It is essential for sushi roll and Gunkanmaki. The High-quality one is flavorful, shiny, and has a smooth texture.
To eat norimaki at the end of a course of nigiri sushi. This action indicates that “this sushi is going to be the last one to eat.”
This is the tool used to wrap nori rolls. It’s also called “sudare”.
The term maroyaka describes a rounded and mild flavor that does not have any sharpness in its taste profile. Maroyaka is often experienced in dishes thickened with something like ankake starch sauce, in foods with a mild and gentle flavor from small amounts of sugar or milkfat. People often note maroyaka flavor in food with a rich variety of umami components.
Making sushi with one whole fish.
Green tea leaves are finely ground creating matcha powder. Hot water is added to this powder to create matcha tea. The matcha powder is used as a flavoring for confectioneries as well.
Young bluefin tuna (Maguro) which weighs about 10 to 20kg.
The young fish like Japanese conger (Anago) and Japanese eel (Unagi). Skinny and small ones about 20cm in length. “Meso” is a corrupted form of “misotsukasu”, meaning a child who isn’t counted as an adult.
Dashi made from konbu, niboshi or katsuo mixed with ｍiso is what defines miso-shiru (miso soup). This is a fundamental dish of traditional Japanese cuisine. A variety of ingredients ranging from vegetables, tofu, and seafood are commonly added.
Red seabream (Tai) caught during the time of the barley harvest (early summer) is skinny after laying eggs and doesn’t taste good.
Sushi bar term for soy sauce.
The middle bone part when fish is cut into three fillets. Or the meat attached to this part. Used especially for tuna, becoming ingredients for tekkamaki, negi toro and etc.
Wasabi has a pungent taste which removes the fishy smell from the ingredient, thus the fish becomes tastier many times as much.
Vinegared rice and thin strips of Wasabi rolled in seaweed
This is the method used to cut octopus and abalone into thin slices when making sushi with firm, elastic flesh. The knife is laid down and undulated while cutting, creating a wavy pattern on the cut edge. This increases the surface in contact with the air and brings out the flavor. It also makes it easier to apply Nikiri shoyu. Also, the tautness of octopus meat causes it to warp when cut with a knife, so after cutting it, Kakushiboucho is inserted with the corner of the knife. This is also called “Sazanamikiri.
Nami no hana (波の花)
A sushi term referring to salt, for being made from seawater.
Fish have already passed their peak condition, which the Japanese start to miss in the late season
Sushi bar term for fish topping in nigiri sushi. These days the general population also uses this term, but “Neta” is a code word coming from switching the syllables of “Tane” which is the Japanese word for sushi topping. In the past, the terms “Tane” and “Sushi-dane” were used.
This refers to simmering fish or vegetables in lots of dashi and then letting the whole pot cool together. To avoid boiling out the aroma of the dashi and to keep any vegetables intact, only simmer slightly. Yet, if done properly, the bones of fish will become soft and tender enough to eat.
Low-cost sushi ingredients.
Nikiri is a short form of Nikiri shoyu in which an alcohol-evaporated Mirin, Sake, Soy sauce and Dashi broth are added together.
Ingredients rich in gelatious substances, like fish and meat, are simmered then chilled together. This creates a rich jelly full of flavor. Blow fish and flounders are great for this particular recipe.
Simmered or boiled foods
Nitsuke usually refers to fish or vegetables simmered in a rich, sweet and spicy sauce but the word can be used more broadly as well. The main characteristic is that the simmering is one with the least amount of liquid and boiled until most of the water has evaporated. When you are simmering a few ingredients together, it’s best to boil each one beforehand or start simmering with items that take more time.
To get a check and make a payment by customers at a sushi restaurant and elsewhere. This stems from modesty on the part of the restaurant and is an abbreviated form of, “We are sorry to trouble you by being so inhospitable as to mention payment after you went out of your way to come here.” If the customer says it, it means, “I want to get out of this inhospitable restaurant as soon as possible so get me the bill now,” so you need to be careful.
To bind toppings to sushi rice, such as white fish and egg, with seaweed like a belt (obi) for a kimono.
Usually, salt, sugar and Mirin are added to mashed shrimp meat or white fish, and then roasted in a pan until they are smaller flakes.
Serving sushi made with live seafood such as prawns.
The price and menu content are easily understood when ordering “Okimari”. The rank of “Tokujou”, “Jou”, “Nami” are often used. Order additional sushi as you like for a more fulfilling experience.
A way customers choose and order sushi they want to eat. If you clearly know what you like and want to enjoy eating at your own pace, ordering “Okonomi” your choice of sushi, would be best.
Leaving the topping selection to the sushi chef and eating what they recommend.
This is a word to refer to customers seated at the counter. Long ago the sushi chefs sat down to make sushi in both indoor and outdoor shops. Before long, the outdoor food stand form was brought indoors and it was after that when sushi started to be made standing up and that work was called, “Tachi” or “standing work”. Eventually, the customers seated at the counter in front of the sushi chef started to be called, “Tachi.”
A small dish for soy sauce. The size is about 10cm. Although it is acceptable to hold a bowl in your hand when you eat, you are not supposed to hold an Oteshou.
Food ingredients that are used later.
This is a general term for miso soup or a clear soup called “suimono.”
Ryokucha is green tea made from leaves of the camellia sinensis.
This term refers to when the item in shun is at its peak and the volume traded at the market is at its highest. Prices are usually the cheapest at the period due to its abundance. Taste and nutrition are at their peak as well and the ingredient can be cooked in any style.
While cherry blossoms are in bloom, Red seabream (Tai) comes into season and increases its deliciousness.
To fillet fish and cut into blocks (saku) in each part. (Toro, red flesh and etc. in tuna, for instance.)
Sanmai oroshi (三枚おろし)
A cutting technique to fillet a fish into three pieces: the backbone and both sides of half the body flesh.
One of the types of sugar. The one that using sugar extracted from sugar cane and such, and being crystallized.
A type of green tea where the whole leaves are steeped in hot water. This is the most common form of green tea in Japan.
Cooked rice mixed with vinegar in which sugar and salt are added. In sushi term, it is called “Shari”.
It refers to the preparation of seafood.
White vinegar made from rice, characterized by a smooth and refreshing sour taste.
This is the Japanese expression for how something feels when it touches the tongue. Textures that are smooth (viscous, creamy, etc.) are good shitazawari, while rough and grainy textures are bad shitazawari. This is unlike hazawari (歯触り), an expression for the texture of food when bitten (crunchy or crispy, etc.)
This term is used for any ingredient when it is in its prime season. Things in shun are more abduntant in the markets and prices are usually at their lowest. Due to climate change, however, There has been a noticeable change in the shun of seafood in general.
A method of cutting which makes a slice thinner with a greater surface, by holding the knife diagonally and cutting in line with the cutting board. Usually used for white fish with firm flesh because it is easier to be eaten when served thin.
Eggs of shrimps and crabs, folded and protected in their parents’ legs after being laid.
Refer to carrying out an extra preparatory step for edomaesushi toppings, such as brushing with Nitsume, or steeping fish in vinegar.
A type of soup in Japanese cuisine. Mostly the clear broth soup, seasoned with salt or soy sauce in the simmering dashi soup.
A process of sprinkling salt over fish (mostly for silvered-skinned fish) in order to take out extra fluid or fat (using osmotic pressure), and then soaking it in vinegar to bring out Umami and improve its storage stability. Salting the fish is necessary before curing in vinegar. In doing this, excess moisture is removed due to osmosis. Without this process, the fish becomes soggy and tastes dull. the longer time in vinegar, the longer the conservation but as the acid coagulates proteins and changes the texture of the fish, a few minutes to about half an hour should be adequate. The balance is important.
A set of inari-zushi and maki-zushi.
Known as suimono, this clear soup is lightly salted yet rich in flavor. It usually consists of seafood, mitsuba, and a pinch of yuzu.
It is jargon used by court ladies in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) to refer to sushi.
Sunomono refers to pickling/marinating either raw or boiled vegetables/seafood in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, sugar/mirin, and dashi. Grated cucumber, egg york or potato starch are sometimes added as well.
Ingredients such as beans, roots, or fish are finely ground and mixed with dashi to create surinagashi-jiru. Starch of miso is often added for texture and flavor.
Sun-dried radish is pickled in nuka (rice bran) for several months to produce takuan. The finished product is yellow naturally, yet recently, turmeric and/or jasmine are added for color.
Tama (タマ): Hondama (本ダマ)
This refers to Ark shell (Akagai).
Tare is a compound flavoring agent made with a base like soy sauce. As a sauce that brings something new to the taste of a dish, tare can be used to give a flavorsome coating to ingredients during simmering or grilling, added right before eating prepared dishes, and more.
A method to make sushi with toppings that come off shari easily such as abalone, octopus and squid. Instead of using the right fingers to lift up sushi from the left palm, transfer by the motion like turning it over as where it is. Because short sides of rectangle-shaped sushi are used as axes for rotating, this technique is called “tategaeshi” (the vertical way).
Saltwater which is around 3 percent salt (about the same as seawater), and usually used for preparing thin-bodied fish and seafood before cooking. Fish is soaked in Tatejio and to salt it evenly, because sprinkling the salt by Furijio can make it too salty for thin-bodied fish. It is also used to wash shellfish. Shellfish contain around 0.8% salt. Washing with water removes the salt from the surface of the shellfish and makes the shellfish taste watery.
This is the word for Kanpyo-maki. It looks like a gun, which is called “Teppo” in Japanese. Also, when you eat it, it’s like getting shot with a bullet of spicy Wasabi, which is another reason for the name.
Teriyaki is broiling fish or meat with a glaze made of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. The sugar in the glaze creates a shine when heated and teri refers to this. Buri, sawara, and ginmutsu are popular ingredients.
Sushi chefs use something called tezu (hand vinegar) when making sushi. They set a bowl of tezu within reach and constantly moisturize both hands. Tezu is effective in sterilizing hands and cooling palms at the same time. It is simple to make just by mixing water and vinegar. The concentration is usually about 10 to 30 percent.
Items used as garnishes for Sashimi, with the purpose of adding color, cleaning away odor, and so on. This is not the word only referring to finely sliced daikon radish. Spices such as Wasabi are also one kind of Tsuma.
Short form of Nitsume. Soy sauce, Mirin and sake are added to the soup in which Anago eel was boiled, and then boiled down until it gets thick sweet.
Sushi isn’t “made,” it’s marinated or “tsukeru.” There was a lot of work that involved marinating in soy sauce and vinegar, so the kitchen was called the “tsukeba,” which means the marinating spot.
This is the board that sushi is placed on at the counter. These days the sushi is generally served on a plate or Haran and there are very few restaurants that place sushi directly on the Tukedai.
This is a cooking method used for Hamaguri and Shako. After pre-boiling, the ingredients are seasoned with soy sauce, mirin, sugar, etc., and then brought to room temperature. They are then marinated in the broth and allowed to absorb the flavors over a period of time. It is one of the traditional Edomae Sushi techniques.
Eggs inside of shells before being laid, such as shrimps and crabs.
Umami describes the delicious taste of savory flavor essences. For many years, people held to the belief that humans can taste only 5 basic flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy) until a Japanese chemist discovered a sixth flavor in the early 20th century. Glutamic acid in tomatoes and seaweed, inosinic acid in katsuobushi and meats, succinic acid in shellfish, guanylic acid in shitake mushrooms – many ingredients contain a wide variety of umami essences. In combination, they create a synergistic effect which produces an even more potent savory flavor.
Ume (Japanese apricot), harvested in June when they are fully ripe, are salted then sun-dried 3 days. The end product, umeboshi, are extremely sour and salty. A favorite to accompany rice for bento.
A rolling technic of putting sushi rice on the outside, and seaweed on the inside.
This refers to the decrease in meat quality seen in tuna. When the fish is caught in a net and fights it, the body temperature increases and the blood oxidizes, which changes the color of the meat. This is called “Miyake” which is roughly translated as “burning the meat”. A “Miyake” tuna is hard to spot from its external appearance. There are times when, what looks like a good tuna, is auctioned off and when the chef cuts into it, it’s actually “burnt”. This is a situation all tuna brokers want to avoid at all costs.
A cooking method of grilling fish fillet with a little bit of skin left, over high heat for a short time and cooling it down. Its purpose is to transfer the roasted skin fat into the meat. Used mainly for fish with thick and hard skin, like Mackerel (Saba) and Chicken grunt (Isaki).
Bamboo leaves used for decoration. Called Yama because they are gathered only on mountains.
A process to cook just on the surface such as meat and fish, which is dipped in boiling water and shaken quickly.
There are times when sushi rice is cooked in the way called Yutaki. Yutaki is the process of cooking rice from hot water. Boil the water in a pot first, and then add the rice at the temperature you can’t put your hand in. This could be used in situations like you need the rice as soon as possible, or you cook a large amount of rice.
Also called Warabitsu. This is a wooden container to hold Shari and keep it warm.
Warayaki is a method of cooking fish by searing it with burned straw, lightly smoking it, and baking it until the surface is lightly browned. The excess fat is removed, and the fish is then enjoyed as a light, refreshing meal.
Seasoning methods of fish such as Maguro tuna in Nikiri shoyu or dashi shoyu, which was developed in the late Edo period in order to preserve fish longer.
So what did you think? Knowing these terms may help you enjoy your meal at a sushi restaurant even more and if you can catch what they’re saying, then you might feel more sophisticated. But now that you know the code, make sure you don’t accidentally say things like, “Agari kudasai,” or “Murasaki kudasai,” or “Oaiso kudasai.”
(Revision date: July 26, 2023)
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