A Beginner’s Guide to Decoding a Sushi Menu

There is nothing worse than being at a restaurant with so many things on the menu that you don’t know what to choose – unless it’s being at a restaurant and not being able to decipher the menu in the first place. Whether you’re a sushi veteran who just wants some clarity or a newbie just getting your sea legs, our guide will help you decode any sushi menu like a pro! No matter what you order at Locals, you are sure to love it!

What is Sushi?

Before we begin to discuss what all the sushi terminology means, let’s start at the real basics. What is sushi? Sushi is one of those phrases that encompasses an entire type of cuisine. Sushi originated in Japan and it is not only a healthy and nutritious delicacy; it is an art form!

Sushi did not always look like it does now. It used to be a term used to categorize salted fish dishes that were served over fermented rice. Over time, however, pop culture and trends have melded sushi into what we have in the modern day.

What are the Six Main Types of Sushi?

Although not all restaurants serve all six types of sushi, there are six different categories of sushi, and knowing them will help you decode a sushi menu with ease. The six types are:

  • Nigiri
  • Sashimi
  • Maki
  • Chirashi
  • Temaki
  • Uramaki


Nigiri sushi is raw fish that typically tops a bed of vinegar rice. Although it is not always necessary that raw fish be included, it is a simple dish with two main ingredients that allow each to stand out on its own.


Of all the types of sushi, sashimi is usually the most commonly ordered. It is raw fish that is served in long-cut slices that are also called Hira-Zukuri. Sashimi is usually served alongside wasabi and soy sauce with pickled ginger. Sashimi is one of the most simple sushi rolls on any menu.


One of the most commonly found sushis in everything from restaurants to grocery stores is Maki. Maki is sushi that is rolled in a thin layer of seaweed or nori and then cut into small pieces that you can pick up with your fingers. The fillings of the maki are usually mixed with rice and they consist of meat, vegetables, or fish.


Although not traditionally a “sushi,” the name Chirashi means “scattered” and it is traditionally served over a bed of rice with raw fish and various garnishes. Usually, raw fish is a chef’s choice, so there is always a hidden and unique surprise. It is not uncommon for Chirashi to include vegetables and fruits in the dish itself.


Temaki is a roll that looks like an ice cream cone. The nori is first shaped into a cone and then it is filled with fish, vegetables, and rice. Because there tends to be a lot, it is usually too big to eat with chopsticks.


Very similar to maki, uramaki is a roll, but it has rice on the outside of the roll instead of the traditional nori. The nori is then wrapped around the inside filling. Usually, uramaki comes with a number of different sauces and toppings that tie everything together.

Sushi Rolls

Sushi rolls tend to be the more Western-influenced menu selection. In the US, we have put our own spin on maki sushi, and although they are far from traditional, they are pretty spectacular! On the menu, the sushi roll section is where you will commonly find both universal sushi rolls like the Dragon Roll and the California Roll, but you will also find the most unique creations on the menu.

When it comes to the sushi menu it might look foreign, but that’s because it is. When you break it down, however, you quickly see that sushi begins with the main ingredients and you can add or subtract them according to your individual tastes. If you have any questions, that is what we are here for. Sushi is a type of cuisine that can be as individual or as general as you want it. So what is your favorite? Come into Locals Sushi today and get on a roll to a healthier 2023!