Collection of popular Sushi toppings and their characteristics.
まぐろ｜鮪 Maguro 鮪魚赤身 Tuna
The common people’s favorite today, just as it was in the past! The standard when it comes to nigiri zushi.
Tuna meat around the spine is chewy and has a perfect mix of sweetness and sourness. This part of tuna is every bit as delicious as toro. When you are going to a sushi restaurant for the first time, this is the first thing you should try.
中トロ｜Chutoro 鮪魚中腹肉 Chutoro
If you’re in the mood for a little splurging, this is it! Akami with a bit more fat.
The combination of akami’s sourness and the fat’s sweetness is irresistible, making this neta extremely popular. At kaiten zushi restaurants you can order it at reasonable prices, so don’t miss the opportunity to try it.
大トロ｜ Otoro 鮪魚前腹肉 Ohtoro
Top quality fat that melts in your mouth – definitely the king of sushi!
The flesh of the king of sushi has fat marbling that brings to mind the look of fine Japanese beef. As soon as it enters your mouth it begins to dissolve, filling it with the sweetness of fat – if you try it once you’ll never forget it. And if you’re fond of rich tastes, you’ll appreciate it even more!
ねぎとろ｜鮪 Negitoro 蔥花鮪魚 Negitoro
Loved by adults and children alike and always a hit at kaiten zushi restaurants, this is a topping where negi (welsh onion) balances the fat’s richness.
Minced “nakaochi” (finely cut leftover flesh on the tuna’s spine) and matched with negi, this is a typical example of gunkan. The combination of the nori seaweed’s taste with the fat’s sweetness makes it appealing to people of all ages and tastes.
サーモン｜鮭 Sake 鮭魚 Salmon
With its vivid pink a sign of freshness and its low price, this is a staple of kaiten zushi restaurants.
A combination of a reasonable price and a sweet taste have made salmon very popular, especially in kaiten zushi restaurants. It is often accompanied by mayonnaise or aburi (slightly broiled) or in many other variations. Please note though that some regular, “counter” sushi restaurants do not serve it.
たい｜鯛 Tai 鯛魚 Sea bream
Always there for happy occasions, a much loved white fish with an elegant texture.
Its chewy texture that leaves your mouth with a sense of freshness and its refined sweetness make tai a top-grade neta. Also good in appearance, this fish has been associated with auspicious moments and celebrations, so it has a special place in the heart of the Japanese people.
ぶり｜鰤 Buri 鰤魚 Yellow tail
You need to try it in season! Its characteristic rich umami taste has made it a hit among Japan’s young.
A popular neta with a mildly fatty umami. Particularly in winter, the so-called “kanburi” (cold “buri”) is considered a treasure and matches maguro in fat and richness of taste.
かんぱち｜間八 Kanpachi 紅甘鰺 Greater amberjack
Associated with buri, it has a moderate texture but top-class sweetness – and you can enjoy it all year round.
Not very persistent in fat but with a sweetness that stays steadily in the mouth, this white flesh fish is very popular. Even in kaiten zushi restaurants, where the fish used mostly come from farms, the umami taste is no different than that of the open sea kanpachi.
ひらめ｜平目 Hirame 比目魚 Flat fish
The king of white flesh fish that can be used in all kinds of dishes.
Its refreshing, elegant taste makes this white flesh fish one of the top choices. It is of course great in plain, Edomae sushi but it is also delicious wrapped in konbu kelp.
さば｜鯖 Saba 鯖魚 Mackerel
If you want your topping rich in fat, try this during winter, and besides raw it is great when marinated in vinegar.
There are many who like their saba as “shimesaba” (marinated in vinegar), but recently it has gained popularity raw, as neta for sushi. From autumn until winter, thanks to its fat, its umami taste becomes similar to that of toro and this is when you should try it!
あじ｜鯵 Azi 竹莢魚 Japanese horse mackerel
Easy to eat and without any particular idiosyncrasies, this is really a fish for the masses!
Aji is a fish loved all over Japan and cooked in many different ways. Its taste is simple and refreshing and it goes very well with condiments like shoga (ginger).
いわし｜鰯 Iwashi 沙丁魚 Sardine
The world’s most consumed fish with an exceptionally rich umami taste when in season!
Since time immemorial, the Japanese have been very fond of simple tastes and this has made iwashi one of the most popular sushi neta. If you try it from early summer to autumn, you will find that the fat stored beneath its skin has given it a rich taste that will certainly delight you.
こはだ｜小肌 Kohada 鯡魚 Gizzard shad
Fish with soft flesh, a delicate sourness and an appearance characteristic of Edomae sushi.
Also eaten with salt and vinegar, kohada is something like a trademark of the Edomae sushi school. It is often said that if you want to try a sushi chef’s real talent and a sushi restaurant’s attention to detail, kohada is the sushi you should order.
あなご｜穴子 Anago 星鰻 Conger eel
Sweet and soft flesh that dissolves in your mouth, a neta that also shows how good the chef is.
Anago’s full but tender flesh is very easy on the palate, making it another Edomae sushi standard. Depending on the shop or the area, the way it is prepared might vary considerably but for most people it means being boiled and covered in sweet and spicy tare (sauce).
ほたて｜帆立 Hotate 扇貝 Japanese scallop
Just the right texture and a top-grade sweetness make this neta the most popular among shellfish.
Plump and largish but at the same time with a crisp and clear texture and without any idiosyncrasies, hotate is a shellfish that is liked by people of all ages, both adults and children. Once very expensive, it can now be enjoyed everywhere and at any time of the year.
たまご｜玉子 Tamago 煎蛋 tamagoyaki
A chance for a craftsman chef to show his art! Another much-loved Edomae staple.
A synonym for Edomae sushi as much as maguro and with a sweetness that wins the hearts of children – and of course, adults with a sweet tooth! Cooking it just right is quite difficult so it is said to be the mark of a true artisan cook.
いくら｜鮭卵 Ikura 鮭魚卵 Salmon roe
A fun texture and a rich body make ikura a favorable neta to all and gunkan sushi’s hidden ace.
Salmon roe pickled in soy sauce and salt make for this neta, very popular among gunkan sushi’s variations. Stickily and superbly balancing rich sweetness and fat, it matches perfectly the aroma and deep umami taste of nori seaweed.
うに｜海胆 Uni 海膽 Sea urchin
Filling your mouth with rich umami taste, this is the king of gunkan – with a price to match!
The way this neta captures the sea’s taste makes it impossible to resist even when highly priced. Its characteristic color and strong viscosity are the true marks of top-grade uni, which should be ordered when in season from spring to summer.
かつお｜鰹 Katsuo 鰹魚 Skipjack tuna
The first katsuo of the year is a sign that spring is here – and it goes great with condiments!
A standard red flesh fish having long loved by the common people, with a characteristic hint of sweetness that fits very well with negi (welsh onion) or shoga (ginger), and a clear umami taste that will flood your mouth. Its best season is spring. If you have the chance, try it!
えんがわ｜縁側 Engawa 魚背 Engawa
Gentle sweetness and plenty of collagen: engawa combines features from hirame (Japanese flounder) and karei (flatfish).
With a characteristic chewy texture, particularly the part near the fish’s fins, when bitten into it lets out a mild sweetness. Apparently, most of the engawa in kaiten zushi restaurants is from karei.
たこ｜蛸 Tako 章魚 Octopus
Firm to the teeth, when chewed it lets out a deep sweetness.
The mark of tako is its chewy texture but if you bite softly into it, you will discover a sweetness that goes perfectly with the sushi rice. The octopuses from Tokyo Bay are particularly tasty and master chefs consider them real gems.
いか｜烏賊 Ika 魷魚 Squid
With its almost transparent whiteness and its sweetness, this much-loved neta is the perfect entry to the world of nigiri zushi.
Raw or cooked, ika has a long-lasting relationship with the Japanese and it is one of nigiri zushi’s standards. Its more prevalent characteristic is its chewy texture, but the faint sweetness that comes out when chewed is almost addictive.
あまえび｜甘海老 Amaebi 甜蝦 Sweet shrimp
Its sticky sweetness is irresistible! A standard in all menus, popular with everyone, children and adults.
Both its transparent-like appearance and the way its rich sweetness matches the taste of the rice have made amaebi a very popular neta. A staple in menus of kaiten zushi restaurants, this imported seafood can also be prepared in many delicious ways.
くるまえび｜車海老 Kurumaebi 車蝦 Kuruma prawn
The appeal of the bright red and white colors testifying to its freshness is only matched by its sweetness and aroma.
Much loved by the Japanese for ages, kurumaebi nigiri zushi is especially beautiful to the eye among the many varieties of neta. To enhance both its sweetness and fragrance, it is usually boiled before being made into sushi.
Check these points to choose neta!
①Why is it more delicious when in season?
Generally speaking, it supposedly has to do with the fish’s spawning season: 1-2 months before that season fish are said to be much tastier, so knowing each season’s fish you will probably enjoy your sushi even more!
②Four neta to eat in the summer
The first neta choice for summer should probably be anago with its sweet and spicy “tare” sauce. Aji and kanpachi are also particularly tasty as they are loaded with fat and umami taste, and the fourth choice would have to be the king of gunkan, uni, which is also exceptionally good in the summer. Enjoy them all to your heart’s content!
③Do seasons vary with the region?
Depending on the neta and the variety, they do. For example, hon-maguro, affectionately known as “kuro-maguro,” is in season from autumn to winter, but minami-maguro is in season from spring to summer. This has to do with the difference between the northern and the southern hemisphere.