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What Is Sashimi?
Sashimi is a Japanese presentation of raw fish or meat, sliced thin and eaten alongside an assortment of garnishes and condiments like freshly grated ginger and wasabi, shredded daikon radish, minty shiso leaves, and a dipping sauce like soy sauce or ponzu.
You can make sashimi from vegetables, saltwater fish (freshwater fish, which is more susceptible to harmful bacteria or parasites, is not used), shellfish, or meat. In the tataki style of sashimi preparation, the outside of the fish or meat is briefly seared or marinated in vinegar before being sliced.
What Are the Different Types of Sashimi?
Some of the most popular types of sashimi include:
- Ahi (yellowfin tuna): While ahi may be the fish of choice for fish tacos, this tender vibrant tuna can also hold its own in a sashimi presentation. Chef Wolfgang Puck’s tuna sashimi recipe balances the fish’s mild buttery flavor with an avocado purée and citrus-forward ponzu sauce.
- Akagai (surf clam): This rare clam species has a mild, delicate taste that is optimal for a raw presentation but difficult to find in the US.
- Fugu (pufferfish): The pufferfish is revered in Japan, where fugu fans consume 10 tons of it annually, often raw. Chefs in the region must undergo special training to learn how to prepare pufferfish, as its liver contains a poison known as tetrodotoxin, which can be harmful if ingested.
- Saba (mackerel): While saba is typically grilled or baked, the fish’s creamy, decadent flavor shines in a raw preparation.
- Sake (salmon): Salmon is a versatile fish that you can sauté, bake, grill, fry, or prepare raw for sashimi. Check out 20 salmon recipe ideas in our complete guide.
- Uni (sea urchin): Sea urchins may appear intimidating due to their spiky spines, but the echinoderm’s interior contains tiny, orange lobes (uni) brimming with a strong umami flavor that will set your taste buds alight.
5 Tips for Making Sashimi
Sushi chefs make it look effortless, but there’s a lot of attention that goes into procuring the right conditions for sashimi.
- Understand grading labels. Quality is paramount when consuming raw seafood or raw meat, and this mostly comes down to storage practices. Fish with a “sushi-grade” or “sashimi-grade” label are not necessarily high quality, as individual retailers can use these labels as they see fit. (There isn’t a government-regulated grading system for fish in the United States.) In Japan, sashimi-grade refers to fish caught by hand and killed in a process known as ikejime: a quick spike driven into the brain, which kills the fish instantly without releasing any lactic acid into the flesh, allowing it to stay fresher for longer.
- Use fresh fish. Buy the freshest marine fish you can find from a trusted fishmonger or market. Some specialty shops sell sashimi-ready fillets, but you can buy a whole fish in more conventional markets, then clean and fillet it yourself, depending on your comfort level. If you’re buying a whole fish, look for clear, not cloudy, eyes and bright-red gills. Avoid anything from the cod family, which has a watery flesh that is not ideal for raw preparations. When in doubt, ask the fishmonger for a recommendation.
- Freeze or chill the fish. The only way to eliminate the risk of parasitic activity is to cook the fish or freeze it, so many sushi restaurants use special “super” freezers. Keep your fish as cold as you can before use. Let the frozen fillets rest in the refrigerator before slicing, and check the flesh for worms or larvae (hard cysts that resemble grains of rice) and remove them as you go.
- Sanitize your work surface. When you’re ready to prepare the fish, make sure to sanitize all tools and work surfaces to avoid cross-contamination.
- The cut. There are many different slicing techniques when it comes to sashimi, determined by the type of fish. (Hira-zukuri, or “flat-slice,” is the most common: a ⅜ inch slice about the length of a domino.) Using a very sharp knife, carve the fish crosswise into thin slices.
What Is the Difference Between Sashimi and Sushi?
The primary difference between sashimi and other dishes featuring raw fish—such as nigiri, sushi rolls like futomaki and makizushi, and nori-wrapped cones of temaki—is the presence of seasoned, short-grain sushi rice. Sashimi is served on its own to draw attention to the distinct flavors of the ingredient.
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