Today I am excited to turn things over to one of my sponsors, Daisy from Simplicity Relished! She is talking about one of my favorite types of food… sushi and sashimi! I learned a lot from this post, and I hope you do, too!
If you haven’t plunged into the world of sushi and sashimi, it’s a bit intimidating. Here in the West we tend to be a bit more squeamish when it comes to raw meat, and sometimes we don’t even know where our meat comes from.
But there are so many reasons to love fresh, delicious raw fish, prepared as sushi or sashimi. I hope this little guide will give you some courage to try a few new pieces the next time you’re at a Japanese restaurant!
Sushi vs. Sashimi: What’s The Difference?
Sushi refers to the preparation of fish and seafood (mostly raw) with rice. Sometimes it’s just the piece of fish over rice (nigiri), and sometimes it’s a roll wrapped in a seaweed called nori.
Sashimi is a thin, small piece of raw seafood usually served by itself with nothing done to it (besides the occasional sear).
Both sushi and sashimi are usually accompanied by wasabi (a Japanese “mustard” made out of a ginger-like root), pickled ginger, soy sauce and maybe a lemon.
How to eat sushi and a few precautions
There’s nothing too complicated about eating sushi and sashimi. Traditionally, sushi is eaten with fingers, but today most people use chopsticks. The one piece of “etiquette” I would recommend is to try to eat each piece in one big bite. This will not only highlight all the amazing flavors that come together, but it will keep the rice and fish from falling all over your plate (and possibly all over you).
I would also recommend only dipping your sushi or sashimi in soy sauce lightly, rather than drenching it. Sushi rice is already vinegared, which means there will be plenty of flavor and umami (Japanese for savoriness) coming from the seaweed. No need for all that extra sodium!
To use wasabi, add a pinch to your soy sauce dish and mix it around. Increase to taste.
Be aware that not all sushi and sashimi are created equal. Unfortunately, the demand for raw fish has led to freezing, farming, unethical fishing practices, unhealthy fish, and more. I highly recommend eating sushi at a respectable, high-quality restaurant to ensure that your food is as fresh as possible. And never eat at an all-you-can-eat sushi place!
Raw Fish for Beginners to try
Salmon: This buttery, melty fish is quite likable by first-timers. Once you start enjoying this, you’ll want to make sure your grilled salmon is never overcooked!
Hamachi (yellowtail): This is another easy favorite. Yellowtail usually has a lovely firm but smooth texture, and its favor is pretty neutral. Try it as a sushi too! Negi hama is a yellowtail roll with Japanese scallions. YUM.
White tuna: there are so many types of tuna. White tuna is the mildest, and is often served lightly seared or torched.
Scallop: Scallops are often overlooked as a good beginner fish. If you have enjoyed cooked scallops in the past, then this is definitely for you. So smooth, soft and fresh. A little lemon doesn’t hurt.
Unagi (eel): Eel is cooked in a teriyaki-like sauce, but it’s often found in sushi. It is usually tender and delicious, but when it’s cheaply sourced it can be rubbery and pretty gross. Make sure the eel is very fresh.
Spicy sushi: The spicy stuff in these maki rolls is just irresistible! You can find spicy tuna, spicy salmon, spicy yellowtail and spicy scallop on lots of menus. It’s a great way to start out. Again, make sure to be consuming this at a good restaurant– sometimes spicy fish is not very fresh.
Swim out a bit further…
Tuna: Lots of people start out with tuna, but depending on the variety, it can be a bit fishy. Tuna varies from a leaner maguro to a super fatty oh toro. Finally, ask whether the tuna was line-caught and where it was sourced from. Cheap tuna is often frozen and defrosted, leading to a sinewy texture; it also happens to be depleted in lots of areas.
Mackerel: The Japanese serve mackerel both cooked and raw. This is a fishier fish, but with time you’ll probably start to appreciate its briny profile.
Ikura (salmon roe): These salty little orange “bubbles” are served over a bowl of rice or in sushi form. They’re basically delicious bursts of omega-3 fatty acids!
Sweet shrimp: This is served raw, and it’s the sweetest thing you’ll ever have over rice. Usually only higher-end restaurants serve this, and only when it’s in season.
Geoduck (aka giant clam): Called mirugai in Japanese, this shellfish makes for amazing sashimi. It’s got a crisper, more chewy texture than regular fish, but lots of character that you won’t forget!
For the adventurous!
Uni (sea urchin roe): This is my personal favorite. Buttery and bursting with flavor, uni is an experience you won’t forget.
Firefly squid: These are little whole-animal delights that are so clean and fresh, and only seasonal.
Anything live: Not alive— just very, very fresh, meaning the cells of the dead animal have not died yet. Live squid is amazing. If you have this opportunity, seize it!
Whatever the chef wants to serve you: traditionally, this is what sushi chefs do– they plan the meal ahead of time and you eat whatever they are willing to serve. At a good Japanese restaurant you can always ask what the specials are.
A few more resources
It’s well-known that some of the world’s seafood supply is severely depleted. For the health of the ocean and for our bodies, it’s important to be aware of what fish are best to eat, and which are best left alone.
I love referring to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch site— where you can learn about which sources of seafood (wild or farmed) are sustainable for the planet!
If you like sushi and want to learn more about the craft, then you have got to watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi! The story of this amazing Japanese chef and his sushi spot in Tokyo will make you instantly fall in love.
Hi! I’m Daisy and I love food.
In addition to eating and cooking a lot, I also really enjoy blogging. I usually hang out at Simplicity Relished, where I share delicious recipes, achievable style, good stories and heartfelt reflections. Come on over and say hello! You can also find me on bloglovin‘, twitter, facebook, pinterest, and instagram!