Have you ever wondered why sometimes the nori is on the outside versus the inside of a sushi roll? Well there is a reason! There is usually a reason why certain foods are prepared the way they are.
Sushi is an art. Having the opportunity a few years ago to visit Japan, I was amazed at the gastronomy, and the level of artistry there was in their cuisine. I was truly amazed. Most everything you eat in Japan is given the same equal care and love, whether it is street food or a michelin star restaurant. Sushi is a trade and you make it your lifes work to master this art and trade. Ever seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi (the Netflix documentary)? Well it really is like that!
Sushi is actually the combination of rice and fish. There are some rolls in Japan, but through globalization sushi has evolved into different techniques and flavor combinations. The majority of traditional sushi actually does not take nori. Like this one, uni, uses nori in the sushi piece.
Uni are the gonads. The texture is very soft and it literally melts in your mouth. The flavor is salty and meaty. It is usually said to be the foi gras of the ocean. I had never tried it until going to Japan and it was one of my most favorite bites I have ever had. I haven't eaten it since because it was that incredible. Sukiyabashi Jiro Tokyo, Roppongi Hills, Japan.
Nori is the dried seaweed in or around the roll or piece of sushi. It acts a a binding mechanism for the roll and hand roll. It also provides a different texture and flavor. For example the 2 pieces sushi I ate with nori were fattier pieces of fish, uni and toro (fatty tuna).
Sukiyabashi Jiro Tokyo, Roppongi Hills, Japan.
In Japan the nori is typically on the outside. They are simple rolls: fish, rice, and nori. Nothing fancy! The purpose is, the chef wants to show you the quality of their products: rice and fish. Rice is just as important as the fish. It actually helps to enhance the flavor of the fish. In a sushi restaurant people apprentice for years just mastering the rice. Japan is saturated with incredible fresh fish and if they were to slather sauces, and vegetables inside the roll it would only take away from the beauty of the delicious freshness that is the fish. Sushi rice takes years to master and it's not as simple as steam and done. There is a process of rinsing and soaking, and you absolutely can tell the difference between rice that has been prepared properly and others that have not. Ever eaten a roll and the rice falls apart? Well they haven't mastered the art of rice making just yet.
Squid with rice at Sukiyabashi Jiro Tokyo, Roppongi Hills, Japan. A chewy texture from the squid but not tough. A bit of sweetness. The rice was very small rice grains with just a bit of a bit but enhanced the sweetness of the squid.
So basically, the nori on the inside is a Westernization of sushi. Rolls are not a typical style of eating sushi, unless it is a grab and go hand roll. These are common in train stations, markets, and local places for a snack.
In the US, you will typically find an encyclopedia of rolls, where the nori is on the inside and the rice on the outside. Think of it as an interpretation of sushi, but not the authentic art form that it is in Japan.