Original article published at TasteAtlas.

Most commonly, people’s first association upon hearing something about Japan is sushi, namely its most famous representative typically made with rice and fillings which have been rolled inside a a sheet of dry seaweed.

However, the term sushi is actually an umbrella term covering a wide range of subvarieties which can be made with a myriad of different ingredients and in as many forms and presentations. Although the dish has become wrongly synonymous with raw fish, the primary ingredient of every type of sushi is only vinegared rice.

Originally, sushi was only a method of preserving fish – first developed in Southeast Asia, but it reached Japan in the 8th century. Over time, the dish slowly transformed. Rice was no longer fermented but vinegared and eaten together with fish, and by the 19th century, sushi as we know it today was invented.

Besides rice, which can be white or brown, other ingredients include seafood, meat, and vegetables that can be either raw or cooked. Termed as the original type of sushi, nigirizushi is prepared by draping a mound of rice with a sliced topping, frequently with some wasabi in between or on the side, while probably the most popular type of sushi known worldwide is makizushi; small, usually bite-sized cylindrical pieces most commonly wrapped in nori — a sheet of dry seaweed.

Other best-known types of sushi include chirashizushi, served as a bowl of rice topped with a selection of raw ingredients; the pressed variety called oshizushiinarizushi – deep-fried tofu sacs containing a filling; the traditional narezushi made with fermented rice; and temaki, cone-shaped pieces of seaweed filled with ingredients.

Sushi can be eaten with chopsticks or fingers, and it is typically served on a platter or in a bento box with a compartment for dips (usually soy sauce). Due to the worldwide popularity of sushi, many variations of the dish developed outside of Japan.