Nigiri is one of our favorite ways to enjoy sushi. Minimalist, novel, and incredibly delicious when prepared correctly, you’ll be delighted to know that with the right ingredients and proper technique, you can make nigiri at home that’s just as good (if not better) than the nigiri served at your favorite restaurants.
What is Nigiri?
Nigiri is a type of sushi made of two components: sushi rice and a thin, rectangular cut of fish. The two elements are formed together, which gives the appearance of a mound of rice with the fish laying atop. Although in western cultures we often think of “sushi” as sushi rolls with an uncountable amount of toppings and sauces, nigiri is the most authentic and original style of sushi.
Nigiri can be served with toppings or garnishes, but traditionally is just the mound of sushi rice with fish. Many people confuse nigiri for sashimi due to the fish’s raw, unaltered appearance, but sashimi is strictly fish without rice.
How To Pronounce Nigiri
Nigiri is pronounced nuh-gee-ree, with the hard “g” sound in the second syllable.
- Japanese short grain rice
- rice vinegar
- cane sugar
- sushi grade tuna
- sushi grade salmon
How To Make Nigiri
Making nigiri is fairly straightforward and less complicated than you might think. The key is to using a good quality Japanese sushi rice and high quality fish that’s fresh. Local fish markets have the best offerings, and for a second best option, you can also find good, fresh cuts of fish at Costco.
1. Cook your rice. Nigiri is made of sushi rice and fish, so the first step is to make sure your rice is ready to go. Cook two cups of sushi rice according to package or rice cooker instructions, making sure to rinse the rice in cold water 2 or 3 times before cooking. Once cooked, the sushi rice should be soft but not mushy.
2. Prepare the sushi rice. In a large bowl toss together the the hot rice, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Let your newly prepared sushi rice sit until cool.
3. Cut the fish. It’s important to cut against the grain of fish, which not only will help create more visually appealing pieces of fish, but makes the fish easier to eat and less chewy. Cut each piece roughly 3″ long, 1″ wide, and 1/4″ thick.
4. Form mounds of rice. Fill a small bowl with water, wet your hands, and place a small mound of rice that comfortably fits in your left hand (about 3/4 the size of your palm) when cupped. Keeping the left hand cupped, press down on the top of the mound with your right hand’s pointer and middle fingers (together), gently forming the rice into a slightly more compact, structured mound. Don’t squeeze too tight! Need more help? Check out this video.
5. Once you have formed your mounds of rice, you’ll combine them with the prepared fish. With your left palm facing up, lay one piece of fish horizontally across the base of your fingers, and place one prepared mound of rice directly on top. Repeat the same motion as you did when forming the rice mound– gently cupping your left hand and pressing inward with two fingers in the right hand to hold the rice and fish together. Congratulations! You have just assembled your first piece of Nigiri.
What To Serve With Nigiri
Nigiri is fantastic with a few simple accompaniments including soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. Avoid dunking too much of the rice in soy sauce, as it will crumble the beautifully formed nigiri.
How To Make Nigiri
- 2 cups uncooked Japanese short grain rice
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons cane sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 lb. fresh, uncooked sushi grade tuna
- 1/2 lb. fresh, uncooked sushi grade salmon
- soy sauce, wasabi paste, and pickled ginger for garnish
- Cook rice according to package instructions, preferably in a rice cooker. While rice is cooking whisk together the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Once rice is done cooking, place the rice in a large bowl, add vinegar mixture to hot rice, and toss. Set aside to let rice slightly cool.
- While the rice is cooling, cut the fish. Cut against the grain of the fish to form pieces that are roughly 3" long, 1" wide, and 1/4" thick. Set aside.
- Form mounds of rice. Fill a small bowl with water, wet your hands, and place a small mound of rice that comfortably fits in your left hand (about 3/4 the size of your palm) when cupped. Keeping the left hand cupped, press down on the top of the mound with the long/inside surfaces of your right hand's pointer and middle fingers (together), gently forming the rice into a slightly more compact, structured mound. Don't squeeze the rice too tight. Set each mound aside and repeat until all rice has been used.
- Combine the rice and fish to form pieces of nigiri. With your left palm facing up, lay one piece of fish horizontally across the base of your fingers, and place one prepared mound of rice directly on top. Repeat the same motion as you did when forming the rice mound– gently cupping your left hand and pressing down with the long side of your right hand's pointer and middle fingers, forming rice and fish together. Place formed pieces of nigiri on a large plate, and serve immediately with soy sauce, wasabi paste, and pickled ginger.
- 1 Rice Cooker, optional but highly recommended for best results
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