Sushi not only tastes good, there is also a great Variety of sushi shapes and types.
A rarer but still classic Japanese sushi form is gunkan (軍艦 ), also sometimes called gunkan-maki (軍艦巻き).
What is gunkan sushi and where does it come from?
Gunkan first appeared in 1914 at Ginza-Kyuubei (銀座久兵衛), one of Japan's most famous sushi restaurants (cf. https://zatsugaku-company.com/gunkanmaki-origin/).
This form of sushi allows the use of soft or crumbly ingredients not suitable as neta for nigiri sushi, such as sea urchin, salmon roe and the like as toppings for sushi. For gunkan, the rice itself is shaped like a small boat and encompassed with nori. Only then is the neta placed on top of the rice in the nori. Gunkan is the Japanese term for a battleship.
Typical gunkan varieties include ikura (salmon caviar), uni (sea urchin), or chopped-fish varieties such as negitoro (tuna farm with leeks).
What toppings are used for gunkan?
As with maki sushi, there are no set rules for gunkan as far as the individual components are concerned. For this reason, gunkan is very popular in kaiten sushi restaurants. Gunkan offers flexibility in ingredients, so to speak, and is constantly being reinvented in Japan as well as in the West. This is because, unlike makikomono or nigiri, toppings can be dressed with sauces or quail eggs, for example, which would melt in rolls and be unthinkable on nigiri.
What is the best way to eat gunkan?
Gari, pickled ginger, is commonly used to wet gunkan with a little soy sauce. To do this, the gari is dipped into the soy sauce and then delicately brushed over the topping.
Gunkan should always be eaten immediately after serving so that the nori is still crunchy and the ingredients are perfect in consistency and flavor.
They are not so suitable for delivery service or a lunchbox because of this and also because of the often delicate toppings that could melt or fall over.
Are gunkan maki or not?
To this day, there is no clear definition of whether gunkan is nigiri sushi or maki sushi.
Maki sushi are rolled sushi shapes. But gunkan is not really rolled. In terms of how the ingredients are handled, gunkan is more like nigiri sushi. Nori here is just put around the outside so the toppings stay on top of the rice like nigiri.
Ultimately, it is up to each sushi master how to answer this question for himself. After all, since gunkan is clearly different from the other forms of sushi, we can consider gunkan as its own category.