Sushi vs Maki: What’s the Difference?

One of the biggest misconceptions in the food world is with regard to sushi and maki, with some saying that they are the same and some saying that they are different.

Are sushi and maki different? The way to look at this is that all maki is sushi but not all sushi is maki. Maki is just a type of sushi among many but it is considered to be one of the most recognizable variants of this traditional Japanese dish. As a matter of fact, when a lot of folks think of sushi, they will likely imagine maki but it is by no means the only one.

It isn’t really a big deal if you think that maki is the only type of sushi but you will be missing out on a lot of you do and you might even embarrass yourself when speaking to sushi purists.

The Characteristics of Maki Sushi

Maki sushi is considered to be one of the most universally recognized forms of sushi. If you mention sushi, it’s a good bet that more people will be thinking about maki than any other type. However, you may rest assured that there are a ton of other variants of sushi that you can choose from and as far as options are concerned, they are all delicious.

Among the most widely known of the general categories of sushi are:

·         Nigiri

·         Maki

·         Handroll

·         Sashimi

However, just to help you get a better idea of what you are dealing with when we are talking about maki, it would help to understand exactly what it is. For the characteristics that define this particular type of sushi, you can take a look at the table below.

Rolled formMaki sushi is basically a sushi roll in that it is made by using a sushi mat to roll a sheet of nori, rice, and fillings over itself
Nori sheetMaki sushi is also known to make use of nori for the main structure point in that you use it to form the roll without compromising the shape
FillingsMaki sushi is also nothing without the fillings, which not only provide the flavor and texture but also the color and aroma
Bite-sized piecesMaki sushi is always sliced into pieces that are small enough to be eaten in one bite but not so small as to be unsatisfying
Inside out or outside inMaki sushi is traditionally rolled with the nori sheet outside but it has since changed after becoming more popular in western markets, with the nori now inside the roll

Those are the main key points when it comes to maki sushi and there is actually a difference between California maki and traditional maki. We will be looking into that a bit more later on, but for now, it should be noted that when you are in Japan, you probably can’t expect the former.

Rolled – One of the most recognizable features of maki sushi is its spiral form, which it got from being rolled. You basically, take a sheet of nori, lay it on the surface of a sushi rolling mat, spread the rice on it, place the fillings on top of that, and then roll the sushi. At this point, you have a few choices, some of which you might not have even thought of.

To start with, there is the normal way of going about it, which is to actually slice the roll into several pieces. We can talk more about that later. The important thing to remember is that this is not the only thing that you can do with a sushi roll and it is essential that this is done to the sushi roll to make it into maki.

The other thing that you can do with a sushi roll is to just eat it as is. That’s right, you can basically make a sushi roll that you could have turned into maki but instead, you can treat it like a mini burrito or a sausage. Naturally, this will involve different mechanics of eating as compared to when you are eating it as maki.

From there, we can move on to eating it after deep-frying the roll. This is where you can coat it in tempura batter and then throw it in a fryer. You can then eat it much as you would with a whole roll and munch on it like a piece of hotdog or you can slice it so that you can eat it like maki. In the case of the latter, you will have an extra layer of the crunchy surface.

Nori – Speaking of rolling the maki, you simply can’t do this without the nori. The nori provides a solid, flat surface where the rice can adhere so that you can then add the fillings for rolling without having the roll fall apart. You are relying on the nori to keep the roll together while also providing you with some key benefits.

Among them is texture since a maki that was freshly rolled would retain some of the crunchiness that comes with nori. The nori would need to be toasted, however, in order to have that texture and this is not always the case. There are also brands that offer the untoasted variety and these are more suited to soups and broths than sushi.

Finally, nori adds color to the sushi, which contrasts nicely with the white of the rice. This will then allow the colors of the other ingredients to pop out and you end up with food that looks like a work of art. However, this only applies to regular maki sushi where the nori is actually outside. We can talk more about that in a bit.

Filling – Speaking of the nori, you also need it to keep the filling from falling out. You need to remember that not everything you will use to flavor your sushi is going to be solid. It’s not only going to be sticks of cucumber, avocado, mango, or artificial crab meat. There are also times when it is basically a spread made from fish, meats, or other vegetarian options.

This then means that if you are going to make sushi a central point to your diet, you will need to make sure that you get all of the parts right. Once you slice the roll that you make with the nori sheet and everything else, the fillings also take on the role of the artistic features of the sushi. After all, it’s going to be what imparts much of the color and design.

The nori and the rice can only do so much with the clashing colors. You also need various shades of reds, greens, orange, and even purple, depending on what you are making. This is a really important point to make, especially if you are the kind who puts a lot of importance on eating with your eyes as much as you do with your mouth.

Sliced Pieces – Assuming that you decided to turn your sushi roll into actual maki sushi, you will need to slice it and this is the form that most people most closely associated sushi with. You can see this quite clearly in marketing materials, art depictions and many others. Even if someone only has a vague idea as to what sushi is, they will be able to recognize a sliced piece of maki right away.

With that being said, you don’t just slice the sushi roll in any size or shape that you want. That is, you can’t do that if you want the authentic experience. In many cases, maki sushi will only be about the size of a quarter in diameter and the thickness is only an inch at most. Any bigger than that and it will be too big for you to fully enjoy as intended.

Regular or California Maki – Finally, there is the question of whether you are just having the regular kind of maki or the California maki. California maki is basically the kind of sushi roll that has become ubiquitous in western food markets. This is where you flip the nori after spreading the rice over it backward so that when you roll it, the rice will be outside.

When that happens, you can do even more things with the sushi that you make. You can cover the exterior with fresh fish eggs or toasted sesame seeds. You can also coat it with more sauces, spreads, and other items. This is basically a chance to increase the flavor profile even more and make the experience more intense.

Regular maki, on the other hand, is just maki sushi that you roll with the nori outside. The rice and fillings are contained rather nicely and you end up with sushi that has a nice balance in flavor.

Japanese Vs California Maki

If you have to choose between Japanese and California maki, how would you make that choice? Both have their own merits and you can’t really say that one is better than the other because your basis for judgment would be highly subjective. With this being the case, you can only really choose based on your own taste and preferences.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about how you might choose between regular maki sushi and California maki. Our first point to consider is the authenticity of the experience. Simply put, if you want to eat authentic maki that is like those made in Japan by actual sushi chefs, you might want to go with the regular maki sushi.

California maki really only gained prominence a few decades ago when sushi started to explode in popularity in the US. This is why many of the rolls that you are going to find in major cities will be the kind where the rice coats the exterior. When you go to Japan, you are going to find some very different types of maki sushi.

If you also like to keep the flavor as close to the traditional maki sushi as possible, you want to pass on the California maki. This is because the flavors of that version will be more complex or intense depending on what the garnish is. In comparison, the only flavor notes you will find in regular maki sushi are those from the rice, the nori, and the fillings.

On the other hand, if what you want are more pronounced and complicated flavors, the California maki options are the ones you will want to go for. You can get choices that are light as raw fish eggs to as intense as the ghost pepper. You just need to make your choice.

Maki Vs Other Sushi Types

Other than the two different types of maki sushi that you can choose from, there are other types of sushi variants that are available for you to try, as well. These were already discussed a bit in the earlier sections of this guide, but let’s talk a bit more about them.

Sushi can basically be divided into three distinct categories. They are the nigiri, which are rice balls with toppings and don’t always come with nori. Then there are the sushi rolls, which always come with nori and are either sliced or eaten whole. Then there are the hand rolls, which is where you roll the nori sheet like a cone and add fillings into it.

If you were to compare maki with the other types of sushi available, the difference would include the sizes, the shapes, the taste, the portions, and the method of consumption. In the case of hand rolls, for example, there is no way that you are eating those with a chopstick.

With regard to the condiments, flavorings, garnishes, and accompaniments, you also get different kinds when you go for other types of sushi. If you like to experience new and different things, you definitely want to go beyond just sticking with maki sushi.

Related Questions

What is the Difference Between Sushi and Sashimi?

While they both might involve the use of raw fish, sushi and sashimi differ by simple virtue of the additional ingredients. Sushi also uses rice, vegetables, other cooked meats, and eggs. Sashimi, on the other hand, only has slices of fish, soy sauce, and a little wasabi to cleanse your palate.

Can Muslims Eat Sushi?

Assuming that the sushi that is being served is free of pork, there should be no reason why it would not be fit for consumption by Muslim diners. Pork is rarely used as an ingredient in this dish and when it is, the menu would either say so or the item would be prominently displayed for easier identification.

Why Eat Maki Sushi

Of all the different types of sushi out there, you might be thinking about why you would want to go for maki sushi. A lot of this is due to the fact that it is the most versatile option there is. Maki sushi basically provides you with everything great about sushi, including the nori, the rice, the fillings, and the condiments.

It is easy to eat using both your hands or chopsticks, and you can easily identify it, allowing you some measure of confidence in what you are eating. At the end of the day, it is very important to feel reassured that you are actually eating something worth consuming.

You can also have a freedom of choice as to what kind of experience you are going to have. You can have the light, refreshing flavors of the traditional maki sushi or you can go for the more intense and explosive flavors of California maki. The choice is yours, in this regard, so you can go ahead and take your pick.

Making Homemade Maki Sushi

If you are going to make sushi at home, the easiest type to work with would have to be nigiri. After all, this is just a tiny block of rice that you then place any kind of topping over before eating. However, it is a lot more fun to make maki sushi and it is not actually that difficult to do so. You just need a sushi rolling mat and sheets of toasted nori, on top of all the other ingredients needed for a sushi roll.

Assuming you already have everything ready, all you really need to do is place the sheet of nori on the rolling mat and spread the rice over it evenly. You will place the fillings right near the bottom before rolling the whole thing. Use the sushi mat to pack the rolls tightly so that you will be able to slice them later on.

When the rolls are done, you take a very sharp knife and slice it into a piece of about an inch in thickness, at most. You don’t want to slice pieces that are bigger than those because you could end up choking on them. That won’t make for a very enjoyable experience at all, now, would it?

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