What Sushi Is White?

If you’re at the beginning of exploring different sushi flavors, you’ve probably stumbled upon terms such as shiromi (white) and akami (red) sushi. So, what sushi is white?

White sushi is sushi made from raw white-fleshed fish or shiromi. It typically refers to nigiri type of sushi, where shriomi comes on top of the pressed vinegared rice. Compared to other fish types, white fish sushi has a more subtle flavor, which is why it can be more appealing than stronger-favored red fish sushi.

Tai nigiri sushi

What fish are considered white? Why are these fish white-colored? When is the best time to eat them? Find out all the answers (and more) in the article below.  

What Sushi Is White? It Is a Nigiri Made From a White Fish

The term white sushi refers to a type of sushi, usually nigiri, with a piece of raw white fish (shiromi) as a topping. Shiromi has a more subtle, lighter flavor than other types of fish, which makes it perfect for the start of a sushi meal.

With a sophisticated savory flavor, chewy texture, and a rich aftertaste, this Japanese delicacy is an excellent choice even for beginners – it doesn’t hold as strong of a taste as red-fleshed fish.

The type of white fish served will most likely depend on the season. Take a look at the table below to learn more about some of the most common ones:

TypeJapanese nameCharacteristics
Marbled flounderMakogareiThe most flavorful summertime shiromi, but also one of the most expensive
Japanese sea bassSuzukiAnother fish characteristic for the summer season. During the winter, you can buy hisasuzuki (blackfin sea bass), a more expensive and savory alternative
Japanese sea breamTaiMild taste and firm texture made this nigiri type one of the favorite worldwide
FlounderHirameWintertime fish with a higher amount of fat, prepared in various ways
Red sea breamMadaiOne of the most common nigiri toppings in Japan, eaten during winter and spring months
Japanese whitingKisuHas little fat, which affects a very light taste. It’s served in the summer. Sometimes chefs want to emphasize the umami taste and serve it with seaweed

Ika Nigiri Is One Other White Colored Sushi

Ika (squid) is often used as a topping for nigiri sushi. Ika is not a shiromi since it’s not even a fish, but ika’s flesh does have a white color. In Japan, it’s one of the most popular types of nigiri.

As with the shiromi, different ika types can be used, depending on the seasons and preferred flavor, such as

  • Aori ika – one of the most delicious and most popular types,
  • Sumi Ika – it’s chewy texture and sweet taste goes well with vinegar rice,
  • Yari ika –  if it’s served fresh, the ika’s flesh is still a little translucent, but after a day it becomes completely white and gets a sweet flavor,

Did You Know That You Can Also Find a White Sashimi?

Many people mix sushi and sashimi or think of sashimi as a type of sushi. However, sashimi is a dish of its own made from raw, thinly sliced pieces of fish served, usually with soy sauce or wasabi.

White sashimi, therefore, is made from shiromi (or ika), similar to white sushi but prepared differently. If you’ve never tried this Japanese delicacy, shiromi sashimi is the perfect first choice since it doesn’t bring that strong of a flavor.

Fresh halibut steak

Difference Between Red and White Fish

The color of the flesh is distinguished by the number of chromoproteins called hemoglobin and myoglobin – white fish holds far less than the red kind.

Red fish (such as tuna, yellowtail, horse mackerel, and the like) are migratory, which means they need so-called slow muscles to help them move for a long time. These slow muscles need a lot of oxygen to function.

White fish, on the other hand, live on the seabed and need fast muscles that will help them catch the prey instantly. So why are white fish white?

Fast muscles demand a lot less oxygen than slow muscles, so these fish need fewer pigment proteins that carry it – myoglobin and hemoglobin.

Curious to know more about Japanese delicacies? Read also :

What Is Ramen Sushi?
What Is Thai Sushi?
What Is Chicken Sushi?
What Is Masago?
Is Botan Rice Good For Sushi?

Is Salmon White or Red Fish?

Salmon meat is red, so it must be categorized as a red fish, right? Well, not quite. This fish gets its red color due to its diet, by eating shrimps that eat single-cell organisms and algae, which contain red pigment.

If the salmon is fed with food that doesn’t contain shrimp, like farmed ones usually are, it will actually stay white. The red color you see is commonly a product of synthetic red pigment (astaxanthin) or a diet that contains shrimp flour or red yeast.

However, you’ll never see salmon categorized with other white-fleshed fish. As opposed to fish from this category, salmon is higher in calories, fat, and fatty omega-3 acids.

Salmon nigiri with sesame seeds

Is There Such a Thing As White Tuna?

No, white tuna doesn’t exist, despite its name taking place on many menus around the world. This name refers to either albacore (longfin) tuna or escolar.

Escolar is white, buttery, and delicious – so where lies the problem? Keep in mind that it is also a fish banned in Japan and Italy because the human body cannot digest their oil – eating it can severely upset our stomach.

US restaurants, however, are allowed to serve it. Therefore, the next time you get white tuna sushi, make sure you ask the chef about its origin or limit yourself to no more than 6 ounces.

White tuna nigiri with black caviar

White Sushi Is Delicious Dish, Whether You’re a Sushi Novice or an Established Sushi Lover

Stronger-tasting, red fish is not everyone’s cup of tea, but shiromi’s subtitle taste and low-fat content can be appealing to many people. So, if you’re looking for the perfect type of nigiri-eating experience, begin with the one with white fish topping. And when you make your judgment about how much you love it, ensure that every next sushi eating experience starts with it.