What is sashimi?
At its most fundamental level, sashimi is any meat that is served raw. It can be any type of meat – be it beef, scallops or even chicken, but the most popular type of sashimi would be seafood.
Sashimi is a famous Japanese dish of bite-sized pieces of raw fish served with wasabi. The wasabi not only serves to add flavour to the sashimi, but to also kill any bacteria as it served raw.
Sashimi is commonly thought to originate from Japan, but according to records sashimi was found in Japan after the Imjin War between Korean and Japan in 1592. A lot of cultures were traded between the two countries during this period, and one of them was the import of sashimi, or Korea hoe, to Japan.
Fun Fact: the name ‘sashimi’ was derived from the words ‘sashi’ which means to poke through, and ‘mi’ as in meat.
Which fish is best for sashimi?
Almost any fish is a suitable candidate when it comes to sashimi. In Australia, the most common varieties you will see being used in Japanese restaurants for sashimi are salmon, tuna and kingfish. However, the best seafood varieties for sashimi in this country also include scallop, bream, whiting, flounder, snapper, squid, snapper as well as leatherjacket.
Having access to the freshest fish is not the only determining factor to good sashimi. Over time, the flavour and texture of fish changes over time, and similarly to beef, the taste of some fish improves with a bit of time to age.
As a rule of thumb, it is best to eat smaller fish and seafood like prawns and squid as soon as possible for the best flavour. By allowing the muscles of larger fish like flounder and snapper to relax by letting them rest on ice overnight improves the taste.
A word of caution – ageing seafood is best left to the experts, and when choosing fish for sashimi it is best to follow the advice of a good fishmonger.
How to prepare the fish
Once you have chosen your fish, if it has any bones make sure to fillet and skin the fish.
When choosing the right sashimi knife, the Shun Classic flexible filleting knife gives you just the right amount of flex in your blade steel making filleting fish easier. The knife conforms to the ribs of the fish, removing meat from bones quickly and easily. Removing skin from meat is easier, too.
For a cheaper alternative, the Tojiro Traditional Sashimi Knife does a fantastic job too.
Once the bones and the skin has been removed, there isn’t much more to the preparation of sashimi besides cutting it up. There are countless different slicing techniques for sashimi, but you only need to know a few.
Picture from alleasyrecipes.com
1.Usu-zukuri (thin slice)
Perfect for firm, white fish with thin fillets like flounder, whiting and bream, begin by trimming the fillet into a rectangular loaf shape. And then the fillet can be sliced at an angle into paper-thin slices.
2.Hira-zukuri (rectangular slice)
This is the most common type of slice suitable for any fish fillet, in which you cut straight down into slices of ¼ inch thick. This cut is commonly used for salmon, tuna and kingfish.
3.Kaku-giri (cubic cut)
A style of cutting board used almost exclusively for tuna because of its firmness. First cut straight down into ½ inch thick slices.
4.Kaku-zukuri (square slice)
Slice into small cubes. Thick, soft fish such as tuna are perfect for this.
Dressings and garnishes
Sashimi is not complete without three edible garnishes on the plate to complement - ken, tsuma and karami - a base, a highlight and a spicy condiment.
Ken is the base or background and sits at the rear of the dish. A mound of shredded and curled daikon is a popular 'ken', or wakame seaweed is often used. The bulk of the ken keeps the slices of fish upright and makes it more aesthetically pleasing, but it can also be eaten as a palate cleanser when moving from one variety of fish to the next.
Tsuma literally means "wife" in Japanese, but in the context of sashimi it refers to a highlight to add more vibrancy and colour to the dish. Tsuma are smaller, often coloured piles of tiny herbs, cresses or flowers. Tsuma are placed below the fish in the foreground and can be used to flavour the fish as well.
Karami is any kind of pungent spice that accompanies the sashimi. By far the most popular and widely known is Wasabi, an intense green horseradish.