Roll vs Hand Roll
One of the most ubiquitous types of cuisine because of its richness in flavor and impeccable artistry, Japanese food is definitely in demand around the world. It is known to be an art itself – a balance of flavours and colour. However, that is exactly the reason why it is trickiest.
Those who are not very adept at Japanese cuisine would usually lump all the types together as rolls, but in reality, there are actually different types of rolls and their differences are significant.
Case in point, people who are not trained with Japanese food are not aware of the difference between a roll and a hand roll when the difference is tremendous. Committing a simple mistake of ordering a roll when one is actually expecting a hand roll is highly plausible – and it could be common, too. The differences lie in several factors: terminology, shape, size, production, ingredients, and manner of eating.
Just by looking at the names of rolls and hand rolls in Japanese, it may be apparent that they are treated differently.
In Japanese, rolls are called Maki, while hand rolls are called Temaki. When rolls and hand rolls are served, the difference will be more defined. Rolls are cylindrical or tubular, depending on the type of rolls. This shape is created from the use of bamboo mats, which chefs use to fold or roll the rolls.
Hand rolls, on the other hand, are not made with bamboo mats. As such, hand rolls come in the shape of a cone. In addition, rolls are cut after being folded with bamboo mats. A cylinder could be cut into six to eight pieces, usually. Hand rolls are immediately served after being folded into a cone, and they are usually about four inches in size.
The differences in ingredients are actually not apparent since there are different types of rolls, and each type has their own set of ingredients. Although both rolls and hand rolls are wrapped in Nori or the thin seaweed wrapper, rolls are usually served with Japanese rice, while hand rolls would sometimes lack rice.
Lastly, because of the way rolls and hand rolls are served, the manner of eating would also naturally differ. Since rolls are cut into pieces from a cylindrical or tubular whole, they are eaten with chopsticks. Eating etiquette suggests that they are eaten in one bite, given that these are supposedly small pieces. Since hand rolls are bigger, it may be a bit inappropriate or downright awkward to use chopsticks for that. But since it’s all wrapped in seaweed paper, it is perfectly acceptable to use fingers to eat hand rolls.
It may be challenging to order something in Japanese restaurants especially if translations are scarce, but a simple and quick observation of the form of the food should do the trick. It is helpful to remember that all cuisines have different types of food, and that it could be inappropriate and highly inconvenient to dismiss everything as one term when there are a lot of varieties, just like any type of cuisine.
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