Although the literal translation means raw
fillets of fish eaten alone, some other seafood have come under this
umbrella and these include crustaceans, molluscs and shellfish. Most
formal Japanese meals include sashimi which, served with sake, is the
first course in a sushi bar. For non-seafood fanciers, there are a
couple of variations based on raw beef : au natural (niku-no-sashimi) or
With the exception of tuna (maguro) -
arguably Japan's most popular sashimi - which is usually served in neat
little oblong blocks, a large part of the spectacle of sashimi is the
transparent thinness of the slices of raw fish and their artistic
arrangement. The fattier, belly tuna (ranging in fat content from chutoro or moderately fatty cut to otoro, the fattiest, palest pink,
most tender cut) is often cut into thin slices which are arranged in the
form of a rose. Some other popular sashimi fish,
particularly suited to being thinly sliced, are sea bream,
sea bass, halibut, carp, jewfish, bonito,
mackerel, kingfish, trout and though not usually eaten
raw in Japan, a popular sashimi fish in the West is salmon. Add
to this a selection of other sea creatures including squid, octopus,
horseneck clam or geoduck and abalone.
There are several basic cutting techniques
used for sashimi. Thick-sliced sashimi is suitable for any fish,
especially those with soft or fragile flesh. Thin-sliced sashimi works
best with firm, pale-fleshed fish. Thread-cut sashimi suits squid and
other thin-sliced muscle meats. Cube-cut sashimi suits tuna or
thick-filleted, soft-fleshed fish.
Sashimi is traditionally served with wasabi
(Japanese green horseradish) and a dipping sauce of soy (with a little
of the wasabi mixed in) for dipping tuna or, for white fish, ponzu.
Quality and freshness of fish is paramount. Pollution in oceans and
rivers necessitates that you be sure about the source of your fish for
sashimi. Even freshwater fish from a clean river can be risky as
freshwater fish sometimes carry parasites that cannot exist in salt
water. This would not normally pose a health risk in Western cuisine as
bacteria and parasites are killed by the cooking.
Eating sashimi is most hazardous when the
sashimi is fugu (blowfish, globefish, puffer fish).