The Basics of Sashimi - Japan’s Signature Dish

What is Sashimi?

Different Sashimi

Sashimi is a trademark dish from Japan that consists of only thinly sliced pieces of raw meat. This dish has roots so deep in the culture of the Japanese that it has been considered a staple dish for Japan. The meats used for this dish are usually Tuna and Salmon but there are also some dishes of sashimi that use other seafood like squid, octopus, scallop, sea bass, and many others. There are also some occasions wherein raw horse meat was used as the meat in the sashimi dish. Whatever meat they use, the only things that come along with this dish are the soy sauce and the wasabi served alongside it. It is considered to be one of the simplest dishes to prepare in the world because sashimi is never cooked and always served raw. Do not let its simplicity fool you, though. There is a reason why it is so popular all over the world and that is because it is absolutely delicious.

Sashimi VS Sushi: Which is which?

Different Sushi

It is pretty frequent to hear or see people order sushi but what they were really asking for were sashimi and vice versa. Don't worry, no one will get mad at you for making this mistake and it is quite easy to mistaken one for the other if you do not frequently eat Japanese cuisine. Looking into the two words' Etymology, Sashimi is literally "pierced flesh" in Japanese and Sushi is "it is sour" in Japanese. Sashimi has already been defined to be the thin slices of raw meat served with soy sauce and wasabi. The soy sauce is to add saltiness to the fish and the wasabi is to adjust the level of spicy to your liking. Sushi, on the other hand, is another popular Japanese dish that is made up of vinegar flavored rice and some other ingredients that are rolled around into a small wheel using seaweed. The other ingredients to be found in sushi varies depending on the dish. For example, a Kani Maki sushi would consist of just the rice, crab meat, and the seaweed that wraps it up while a California Maki sushi would be made up of rice, crab meat, mangoes, cucumber, fish eggs, and the seaweed. Every sushi dish is different and these dishes may or may not have the meat used raw. There is even a specific type of sushi that is called the Nigiri and this consists of a regular sushi topped off with a sashimi (or a thin slice of meat). Now that both have been defined, it is quite easy to see the difference between these two dishes. Both very delicious, but also nothing alike.

Some Information, Definitions, and Nutritional Calorie facts from Salmon Sashimi, Tuna Sashimi, and the other types

Sashimi Bento

It would be quite impossible to name all types of meat used in the long list of Sashimi dishes because practically any fish or meat can be used in making this dish. With this being said, here are some information and facts about the more frequently ordered Sashimi dishes. As stated earlier, the two most popular dishes of sashimi are the Salmon and Tuna sashimi.

Salmon sashimi is a favorite because of the tenderness of the meat and how it almost melts in your mouth while you eat it. There are different types of salmon meat because of where it is caught and other factors. These other types of salmon meant may look different or come in bigger fishes but generally, a slice of salmon sashimi has 41 calories, 2 grams of fat, and about 7 grams of protein. It also comes with zero carbs because all that is served is the meat and the carbs from meals usually come from the bread or rice that go along with the meat. In the case of sashimi, bread and rice never come with it.

Next is the Tuna Sashimi. Compared to Salmon sashimi, the texture of tuna is more jelly. It is a meat that you can chew more because the meat is a bit tougher. Tuna also has different types of meat and this is dependent on what part of the meat is being served. Parts nearer to the swimming muscles of the fish tend to have the least fat while meat nearer to the belly of the tuna tends to carry the most fat in them. On an average, a slice of this fish would give you 40 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 7 grams of protein. It should also be noted that the darker the tuna meat's color, the less fat it has and weirdly enough, it is considered a bad thing to have less tuna fat. This is because tuna fat is said to have health properties due to its DHA content so the lighter the color of the meat, the healthier it is.

As said earlier, raw horse meat is also used in sashimi and that particular sashimi dish is called the Basashi. There is an interesting history to this dish because this dish was created out of necessity. Normally, horse meat would not be something people would want to have because it is quite wild to consider killing horses for food, but in the major battle of the Kumamoto Castle in 1877, the samurais inside the castle were stuck for 53 days and had no other meat source to feed on aside from their horses. Nowadays, it is considered to be a local specialty in the area of the Kyushu Island. There are no specific nutrition facts about horse meat but since it is red meat, it is generally unhealthier compared to the raw fish meat used in other sashimi dishes. Nonetheless, as a tourist, it would be something unique to try when in Japan.

Now if raw shrimp is something that you would want to try, you should get the Amaebi Sashimi. This dish is made up of young northern cold water shrimp that surprisingly is sweet despite its salty water origin. It is also a little different from the other sashimi because unlike the other meats that are served purely raw, the Amaebi shrimps are boiled a little bit and that is why its shell turns orange (which signifies that it was cooked). A thing to remember when ordering this is that it should not be black or too pink. If it is black, it is a sign of poor quality or rawness and too much pink means that it might be overcooked or has been out for quite a bit. The freshest of these shrimps should be served while the meat is a clear color nearing white.  A piece of this meat gives 30 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, and about 6 grams of protein.

Now for the most unique and exciting of all the sashimi, there is. This sashimi is called Fugu and it is quite controversial. This is so because it is made up puffer fish which is a fish that contains levels of Tetrodotoxin that can be lethal when ingested. This is also why some people eat Fugu to test the courage of a person, much like how the villain in Charles' Angels offered Bossly a piece of this sashimi as an initiation to his private club. Because of this high risk, only licensed chefs can serve this type of sashimi to people. It is said that training to serve Fugu reached about 10 years of practice before you perfect it. It is also because of this that it has become a delicacy in Japan. There are no exact values for the nutrition that this fish offers but primarily it is high in protein and low in calories. Carbs also amount to 0 because again, there is no rice served with these sashimi dishes. Risky or not, trying out this dish is highly recommended when in Japan. Just make sure that you are trying it out in highly regarded restaurants that serve it so that you lessen the chances of getting poisoned.

In general, these sashimi dishes are ideal for post workout meals because of its low carbohydrate count and high protein values. Despite its health benefits, raw fish may still have bacteria or parasites in them so here are some tips to raise your chances of safety. Making use of the soy sauce and something acidic, like lemon or lime, to add to the raw fish can kill the remaining bacteria that may still be on these meats. Also, double check the freshness of what is being served to you. Take note of the ideal colors of each dish so that you would have an idea of what to look for before eating these delicious things. Lastly, if you are pregnant or someone with a compromised immune system, it is highly discouraged for you to try these things because people in this condition are more prone to be affected by the bacteria that may still be in the raw fish.

As delicious as these things are, like all things, moderation is key. This is so because whether or not fish is raw or cooked, it still possesses some mercury or other heavy metal contaminants. Eating a large quantity of these things may lead to the accumulation of these dangerous metals in your body so enjoy it but don't overdo it.

Where to Get the Best Sashimi

Since sashimi is a staple dish in Japan, it would not be difficult to find a place that serves it well at a reasonable price. In this portion, you will get to know some recommended restaurants to go to just to shorten the list of places you might want to head to.

Starting off with the Uosho Ginpei found in Ginza, this place is quite an elite restaurant because it is known to serve its dishes with the highest quality of ingredients and the freshest seafood straight from Wakayama, which is a well-known fishing region in Japan. It is a 5-minute walk from Tokyo Metro Ginza Station and another 5-minute walk from the JR Shimbashi Station. It is located in 5F 7-6-10 Ginza Chuo and it is open from Monday to Saturdays from 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM and reopens again at 5:00 PM until 11:00 PM. Dining in this place would cost around 10000 to 15000 yen.

The next restaurant is found in Shibuya and it is called the Isari Juhachiban. This place is found on the second floor of the Dogenzaka which is a 3-minute walk from the JR Shibuya Station. This place is a little hidden but that is more of a positive thing because that means that it isn't so crowded even during peak hours of the day. They are known because they serve quite a generous amount of meat for a very reasonable price and it tastes great. They are open from Monday to Friday from 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM and they reopen again at 5:00 PM until 12 AM. On weekends and holidays, they only open from 5:00 PM to 12:00 AM so take note of this. Dining in this restaurant would cost about 3000 to 4000 yen which is a great deal considering the size and quality of food you will be paying for.

Shinjuku would be where the next recommended restaurant is found. It is called the Takamaru Sengyoten and this place is popular because their sashimi here is served in thicker cuts of meat. This is so because the owner of the restaurant is a fish dealer himself so he gets his ingredients fresh and at a great deal too. This place is a 2-minute walk from Shinjukunishiguchi Station and a 6-minute walk from the JR Shinjuku Station. They are open Monday to Sunday from 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM and they reopen for dinner at 4:00 PM to 11:30 PM. Having 3000 to 4000 yen on you would be enough to stuff yourself full of sashimi.