The word nigiri is pronounced [nee-gee-ree] and means 'hand-formed' because the oblong shaped block of rice used for this type of sushi was traditionally made by pressing the rice into shape between the palm of the hands. The chef would often have some wasabi rubbed onto his hands to infuse the rice block with that spicy horseradish taste.
Many modern restaurants these days make use of a 'nigiri machine' where is capable of sorting and pressing a large amount of rice into hundreds of perfectly weighted and identical blocks in a relatively short space of time.
Various toppings or neta can be used to accompany the rice and range from raw fish like salmon, tuna or mackerel through to octopus, sweet-shrimp (ama ebi) or eel.
Sometimes the topping requires a thin strip of toasted seaweed or nori to hold it in place.
Nigiri usually comes served in couples, and is one of the most recognizable forms of sushi outside of Japan. It is a great type of sushi to try and make it home because of its relative ease in making, and makes a great starter or entree when trying to wow friends and family at a dinner party!