You may already be familiar with sushi, but have you heard of sashimi? Commonly confused as a type of sushi, sashimi is actually a separate Japanese dish. Whilst sushi’s main ingredient is vinegared rice, sashimi consists solely of raw fish. Whether you want to try sashimi for the first time or are seeking some additional information about this dish, the following introduction to sashimi will help you learn all about this exciting variety of Japanese food.
What is sashimi?
Sashimi is a Japanese dish that is made with thinly sliced raw fish, served without rice. The word sashimi means pierced body and refers to the way that the fish is prepared for eating. The fish are first caught and then pierced through the hindbrain to immediately kill them, minimising stress and slowing down any degradation. They are then immediately placed in ice or frozen to kill any parasites and prevent the growth of bacteria.
While sashimi is often thought of as being raw, it can also be cooked depending on the type of fish used and how safe it is to eat. The most common type of sashimi is made using salmon, but tuna and snapper sashimi are also popular.
How is sashimi different from raw fish?
Sashimi is different from raw fish in a couple of key ways. First, there is a set process to follow when preparing the raw fish for eating that starts with how you capture the fish to preserve its flavour and make it safe to eat, as mentioned above.
Second, sashimi is served thinly sliced which allows for a more delicate flavour and texture. It is also always served with dipping sauces and sides. And, sashimi is often seasoned with ingredients such as wasabi or pickled ginger, which add another layer of flavour.
Common garnishes served with sashimi
If you've seen the sashimi served at a restaurant and wondered what the garnishes that come with it, here are some common sashimi garnishes;
- Shredded white daikon radish - sashimi is often served on a bed of shredded daikon, which is sweet, crisp and mild radish. It can be eaten dipped in your soy sauce.
- Wasabi - similar to horseradish this little green paste packs a punch, to have with your sashimi place a little bit on the centre of your fish with your fingers before dipping it in the soy sauce
- Pickled Ginger - to be eaten as a palate cleanser between dishes.
- Soy Sauce - soy sauce is served for dipping your sashimi in to flavour it before eating
- Ponzu sauce - an alternative soy sauce option you may be given depending on the type of sashimi. It's a dipping sauce made from soy sauce and citrus
Is eating sashimi safe?
Yes, eating sashimi is safe provided the raw fish is prepared properly. Although if you are making sashimi at home we would recommend getting your fish from a reputable source to make sure it is as fresh as possible.
Some fishmongers will even mark their fish as 'sushi-grade' or 'sashimi-grade' as a nod to the process in which it has been stored. In this instance, the fish will have been frozen to below -20ºC immediately after it has been caught to preserve the flavour of the fish and kill any parasites. Although, please note that 'sashimi-grade' or 'sushi-grade' fish isn't regulated within the fishing industry and is just a marketing term which is why you need to make sure you are buying from a reputable fishmonger.
What fish can't you eat raw?
A good general rule to follow is that saltwater fish are safe to eat raw but fresh-water fish must never be eaten raw. This is due to the different types of parasites in both water bodies. Salmon, however, is an exception. Although it is born in freshwater it spends most of its life at sea so it is classified as an anadromous fish and can be eaten raw. The three most common fresh-water fish to avoid eating raw completely are bass, haddock and pollock.
The second rule to follow is to make sure your fish is fresh, if you're not sure then don't risk it. This is because whilst you may be sure your fish is free from parasites that can harm you, you are still liable to get food poisoning from old fish.