Japanese Food: Sashimi

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Sashimi is a central of Japanese cuisine
Sashimi is a central of Japanese cuisine

Sashimi (刺身) is thinly sliced, raw food. It is one of the most famous dishes in the Japanese cuisine. Seafood is most commonly eaten as sashimi, but other types of meats (such as beef, horse and deer) and foods (such as yuba tofu skin and konnyaku) can also be served as sashimi. Some people confuse sashimi with sushi. Unlike sashimi, sushi includes vinegared rice.

Sashimi dishes are available at many types of restaurants and at most izakaya. They are also popularly used in teishoku set meals and are a standard element of traditional kaiseki course meals. The slices of raw food are often presented arranged atop of a bed of shredded daikon and garnished with shiso leaves. At some restaurants, the rest of the fish is sometimes presented alongside the sashimi as decoration.

Sashimi dishes are available at many types of restaurants
Sashimi dishes are available at many types of restaurants

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How to eat sashimi

Most types of sashimi are seasoned with soy sauce by dipping each piece into a small dish of soy sauce before eating it. It is usually the diners’ responsibility to fill the small dishes with soy sauce, and it is good manner to pour only as much soy sauce as needed.

Depending on the type of sashimi, a little bit of wasabi or ground ginger may be added to the sashimi piece. This is most elegantly done by dabbing the wasabi or ginger directly onto the pieces of sashimi (as opposed to mixing it into the soy sauce). Some people also enjoy eating the daikon and shiso garnishes; both vegetables have a fresh, minty taste.


Popular types of sashimi

Maguro (Tuna)

Maguro is found at virtually all restaurants that list sashimi on their menu. Most parts of the fish are eaten. The most common is akami, the deep red loins of the fish which are lean, firm and meaty. Higher up on the scale is toro, the pink, fatty belly meat, which is especially prized for its rich, buttery flavor. Toro usually comes in two grades: chutoro (medium) and otoro (premium) depending on the fat content. Some of the most prized tuna are caught off Cape Oma at the northernmost tip of Aomori Prefecture.

Sake (Salmon)

Sake is another fish that is popularly served as sashimi. Its bright orange flesh is tender, fatty and delicious. Sometimes you can find salmon toro on the menu, which – like its tuna counterpart – is the fattier belly portion of the fish.

Tai (Sea Bream)

Tai, with its mild, subtle flavor, is considered one of the top white fleshed fish in Japanese cuisine. Tai is often served in times of celebration, such as at weddings and during the New Year.