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What is the tastiest raw fish?

What is the tastiest raw fish?

Koyama Hirohisa is the head of Ecole Culinaire Heisei, teaches there, and promotes the appreciation of Japanese cuisine overseas.

Eat It Raw:
How to Prepare
Sushi and Sashimi

Fish is cooked and prepared in many ways in Japan, but the ultimate eating experience is surely raw sushi and sashimi. If you are going to eat raw seafood, you will want to make sure it is safe to eat, and tasty too. That means choosing the right seafood and preparing it the right way. Nipponia asked Koyama Hirohisa, one of Japan’s top chefs, to explain.

Preparation tips given to Nipponia by Koyama Hirohisa,
owner of Aoyagi, a traditional Japanese restaurant
Photos by Kono Toshihiko

Some of the seafood displayed on this plate of sushi and sashimi: prawn, sea urchin, herring roe, tuna, sea bream, horse mackerel, squid. Chefs need a good eye for freshness and ingredients, and a skilled hand for cutting. That is the key to delicious and attractive servings.

Japan is an archipelago in East Asia, surrounded by water where many varieties of fish thrive. It would be hard to talk about Japanese cuisine without mentioning fish, including, of course, the art of preparing it raw for the table. Fish has long been an important part of Japan’s culinary culture, and this culture offers a treasure house of seafood knowledge to learn from.

Raw fish—not an old tradition

It was only about 150 years ago in Japan that it became common to eat fish that could be considered truly raw. Before then, fish was sometimes eaten uncooked, but it was salted and/or treated with vinegar to prevent deterioration through bacterial action. After soy sauce became available around the middle of the 16th century, some people would cut up raw fish, dip pieces in the sauce and eat it, but this practice spread to the common folk only around the middle of the 19th century. And actually, eating raw fish only became widespread after World War II, thanks to advances in electrical refrigeration, trucking, and urban sanitation, including garbage removal.

The Japanese had always eaten seafood, however, and had developed a wide repertoire of culinary techniques, and this knowledge was adapted to preparing raw fish. One technique, ikejime, is an unusual way to kill the fish and ensure the ultimate in freshness and taste. A few years ago I showed this method to the famous French chef, Alain Ducasse, whom I am lucky enough to count among my friends. I used a sea bass caught off the Bretagne coast.

Knives: Tools for the expert

Japanese cuisine calls for a wide variety of knives, each one designed for a specific job and a certain type of ingredient. Here are just a few examples. From top right, down: hamo-giri bocho (blade 36 cm long; for cutting fish with many small bones); yanagi-ba bocho (for sashimi—the long blade is drawn toward you when cutting, so as not to crush the fish fibers); maguro-hiki bocho (for cutting fish that has little fiber—cut straight down); fugu-hiki bocho (for cutting very thin slices); deba bocho (thick heavy blade for filleting large fish); and usuba bocho (mainly for chopping vegetables up fine).

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In ikejime, as soon as the fish is taken out of the sea, a special hooked tool is used to crush its hindbrain. The heart keeps beating and pumping blood. The idea is to get the fish to pump out its own blood by cutting arteries in the gills and tail. You have to remove the blood because otherwise the fish will retain an unpleasant fishy smell. And you have to restrain the fish because otherwise it will flap about, making the flesh less tasty. A fish restrained the ikejime way is only half dead—it is so fresh that the muscles still move a little. That is the time to eat it. Monsieur Ducasse was amazed, and seemed very pleased with the taste.

Sashimi and sushi

Sashimi and sushi are the best known ways to serve raw fish. The word “sashimi” used to mean any sliced up food, including vegetables and tofu. The food is cut into bite-size pieces, either with the grain or against it, always with the aim of getting the best taste. Sashimi is cuisine made with knives.

We have a saying, kasshu hoju (cutting is the most important, cooking comes second). We could interpret this to mean that sashimi is superior to cooked food. Because cutting is so important, we have a wide variety of knives to choose from. They are our most important tools, and I sharpen mine until I could shave with them. One of my daily routines is sharpening knives.

Sushi is now popular worldwide. Hand-molded sushi consists of two parts—an easy-to-handle clump of rice seasoned with vinegar, and a topping of raw or cooked seafood. Years ago, sushi developed as a food that was treated to keep it fresh, but today the hand-molded version is rice with some topping. The vinegar is a preservative and helps prevent the ingredients from deteriorating.

The photo shows some types of seafood ideal to be eaten raw: sea bream, prawns, horse mackerel, squid, turban shell, saury and abalone. Other types not shown here include: tuna, bonito, flatfish (flounder), yellowtail and sea bass.

Choosing the fish, and preparation method

It is hard to say which fish are best for your sushi because your country may not have the types I mention. One quick rule of thumb: larger fish like tuna are generally good to eat raw. Tuna blood is rich in iron and its amino acids break down slowly during the fermentation process, so tuna is ideal for eating raw. Small fish, especially those with shiny bluish backs, like sardines, tend to bruise easily, and even the Japanese will not eat them raw unless they are super fresh.

Keep fish at about 0°C because the protein fibers are shorter than in meat, making it easier for microorganisms to propagate. Carefully remove all of the scales and inner organs. Cleaning the fish properly is even more important than true freshness. When cutting and cleaning the fish, keep your knives, the knife handles, the cutting board and your hands as clean as possible.

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Seafood suitable for sushi can be prepared in three ways:
·sprinkled with salt and/or allowed to sit in vinegar for a while
·cooked by simmering or grilling.

Here are some examples of seafood eaten raw: tuna, sea bream, prawn, squid, sea bass, young yellowtail, and flatfish (flounder). Fish with shiny, bluish backs may cause an unpleasant or allergic reaction, so if you want to serve them, place them in salt first for a while to inhibit bacterial action.

Again: your hands touch the raw fish at every step until the sushi reaches the table, so cleanliness is absolutely essential, even more than for sashimi. This is true not only for your hands but for the entire kitchen as well. Cleanliness is the law for the sushi chef. After all, the food we eat must be safe to eat.

I hope people all over the world will come to truly appreciate the fine flavor of Japanese cuisine, especially the wealth of knowledge found in our many fish recipes. And I certainly hope readers will experience the profound enjoyment that comes from eating fish in its natural state.

How to make sure the fish is fresh:
Above left: Touch beside a gill lightly. It should be soft.
Above center: The underside of the gills should be reddish in color.
Above right: The eyes should be clear.

Gone Fishing for the 10 Best Fish for Sushi

sushi, seafood, rice, fish, salmon, tuna, shrimp, wasabi

Calling all sushi a-fish-ionados. Reel in to find out the best fish for sushi.

June 28th, 2017
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While I am unfortunately neither a top-tier sushi chef, nor a sushi expert, I like to think of myself as a top-notch foodie and passionate sushi consumer. And when I address sushi, I predominantly refer to raw fish (like my favorite, nigiri) not the mysterious imitation crab found in the immensely popular California roll.

No, I’m talking about the items on overwhelmingly dense sushi menus denoted by asterisks, indicating that they *contain raw fish. But what is the best fish for sushi? I did some research, and here is my o-fish-al list of the 10 best fish for sushi.

1. Bluefin Tuna (Maguro)

Bluefin tuna sits at the top of the list as one of the most prized fish in Japan (a.k.a. O.G. sushi land) — so much so that only 20% of them are consumed outside of the country!

Sushi chefs prepare three different cuts of the fish: akami, chu-toro and o-toro, and they love it because of its heavenly rich flavor. However, its popularity has led to overfishing, and the bluefin tuna species is now classified as endangered. While one of the best fish for sushi, eating an endangered species is not cool. Can’t catch em’ all.

2. Japanese Amberjack or Yellowtail (Hamachi)

Japanese Amberjack, also known as yellowtail, is beloved by many sushi chefs for its high fat content. Prepared either cooked in a roll or raw as nigiri, this fish packs a unique combination of flavors due to its fat marbling. Referred to as spicy, salty, and rich, yellowtail is a sushi chef’s gill-ty pleasure.

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3. Salmon (Shake)

The classic salmon, or shake, is a sushi fan favorite. So much so that salmon can be found in almost every sushi restaurant, both in Japan and the United States. In addition to its tasteful freshness, the salmon’s distinctive peachy color adds to its overall visual appeal (and Instagram aesthetic).

As if it couldn’t get any better, salmon contains healthful omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies can’t produce on their own. Salmon says, order the salmon.

4. Mackerel (Saba)

Another fish packed with omega-3’s, mackerel elicits a potent fishy flavor that is generally more attractive to the Japanese than to us sushi-rookie Westerners.

As a versatile fish, four different types of mackerel are prepared and served — one of them being saba, which is cured for hours with vinegar and salt. Holy mackerel, you gotta try this fish.

5. Halibut (Hirame)

Halibut, a light and airy fish, is one of my personal favorites. Prepared by being chilled in a fridge for hours, or through kobujime, a curious combination of grilling and ice-dunking, this lean fish is sought out by sushi chefs because of exceptionally rich taste. Next time you find yourself at a sushi restaurant, order this fish — just for the halibut.

6. Albacore Tuna (Bintoro)

Albacore tuna, the bluefin’s smaller cousin, has a more delicate flesh and smoother texture because it lives in warmer parts of the sea. Sushi chefs utilize the tataki method — a quick grill to cook the outside, followed by an ice water dunk — in order to further concentrate the albacore’s flavor. Check this fish out — contrary to common belief, it’s not rotten to the albacore.

7. Freshwater Eel (Unagi)

While not your typical run-of-the-gill fish, eel, or unagi, is a relatively popular fish among sushi chefs. Often roasted over charcoal, chefs like to prepare and serve freshwater eel brushed with a sweet soy sauce made with a stock that is made from the simmered bones and heads of the fish. Full of vitamin B and fatty flavor, freshwater eel is off the hook.

8. Squid (ika)

Beyond the fried-goodness that is calamari, many people are intimidated by the squid prepared in other forms, like sushi.

However, sushi chefs agree that squid is underrated. Its funky texture and delectable umami flavor (the same meaty umami elicited by a burger) classify it as one of the best fish for sushi. Get over your fear of tentacles, and squiddy on up for this fish.

9. Sea Urchin (Uni)

While not an inherently obvious choice for sushi, sea urchin, or uni, is another hidden gem buried underneath its salmon and tuna counterparts in the sushi world. But sushi chefs certainly don’t count it out. Its edible golden ovaries give rise to a buttery texture that produces a desirable melt-in-your-mouth effect. If you’re urchin for non-fishy sushi, opt for the uni.

10. Sardine (Iwashi)

Sardine sushi?! Indeed. Also known as iwashi, this sushi rendition is rarely seen in the U.S., but it is a delicacy in Japan. While not the most glamorous fish, if prepared correctly, sushi chefs sing its praises. Underrated, maybe, but definitely not lacking in nutrients and deliciousness. Sardines — stay in schools — or you might accidentally end up over a bed of warm rice in between two clumsily held chopsticks, en route to my awaiting face-hole.

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Sure, there are many fish in the sea. But these fish are the best of the best fish for sushi.

Best Types of Fish for Sashimi

Both sushi and sashimi are Japanese dishes which have taken the world by storm. There are lots of reasons for this, from their unique flavor to their health benefits, and simply the fact that they are something different.

Mixed slices of fresh raw salmon, tuna, mackerel sashimi served with wasabi for dinner.

Yet, as these foods have grown in popularity, a lot of people still do not know the difference between sashimi and sushi.

Although they are often categorized together, these two Japanese creations are actually very different from one another.

In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at sashimi to find out how it is made, and lots more. So to find out more, keep on reading.

What is Sashimi?

Sashimi is a Japanese dish that uses raw fish as its main ingredient.

Japanese plate of Assorted Sashimi

A lot of people confuse sashimi with sushi, and because of this, a lot of people believe that sushi uses raw fish in its creation. But most of the time, it does not, instead this is something that is reserved for sashimi.

Typically speaking, sashimi is made using raw fish which has been cut into incredibly thin slices. Unlike sushi, which wraps rice and fish into little bundles, sashimi simply consists of raw fish that has been sliced.

plate of tuna sashimi

Alongside the raw fish, a sauce is normally served, and most of the time this will be soy sauce.

As a lot of people associate sashimi with sushi, they expect it to be quite difficult to make, but this isn’t actually the case. So, let’s take a look at how sashimi fish is made.

How is Sashimi Made?

Once you realize that sashimi is not a type of sushi, you will understand that it isn’t actually as difficult to make as you probably expected it to be.

Chef slicing raw fish as sashimi

Sushi is rather complex because of its small size, multiple ingredients and fiddly design. In contrast, sashimi is fairly simple in design. After all, it is simply uncooked fish which has been sliced up.

So, to make your own sashimi, you must first decide which fish to use. We will look at some of the best options shortly.

Once you have chosen your fish, you can then start making it. In traditional Japanese cuisine, this process is a little more intricate as the fish must be caught through the hand line. It is then stabbed with a sharp spike to the brain, and kept in ice.

Then the fish is gutted, and the best pieces are chopped into thin slices. Usually, a couple of different types of fish will be used, and they will be laid out on a platter with soy sauce.

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So, let’s take a look at some of the most popular fish used in sashimi.

What Fish is Used to Make Sashimi?

Now that we know exactly what sashimi is, let’s take a look at some different types of fish which are used to create this delicacy.

So, if you are looking to make your own sashimi at home, you should consider one of the following:

Tuna – Maguro

Bluefin tuna is one of the most popular for making sashimi as it can be eaten both raw and cooked.

Ahi Tuna Sashimi

It contains a lot of Omega-3 fatty acid, which is good for heart health and why it is why this is such a popular choice. There are different parts of the tuna that have different names and meanings.

Otoro is the fatty belly of the tuna and most desirable and will melt in your mouth

Chutoro is the upper and lower loin sections closest to the head with medium fat content and that dark red color

Akami is the center of the body and less fat content, but still very delicious and healthy

Yellowtail – Hamachi

Fat is a good thing when it comes to fish. Yellowtail fish is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids and is extremely high in protein.

yellowtail buri hamachi sashimi

These are the good fats that have a long list of health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and even increasing mood.

It also contains a lot of vitamins and minerals, like as B12, B6, and selenium.

Fluke – Hirame

Fluke sashimi, also known as Hirame in Japanese, is a popular dish in sushi restaurants, particularly in the Northeast of the US, where it is also a popular fish to catch.

Fluke sashimi

The meat of the fluke is a gorgeous white color. In contrast to the bottom fillet, the top side fillet appears translucent.

When compared to other stronger fish, such as mackerel, the flavor is delicate and smooth.

Salmon – Sake

This is one of the most common fishes used in sashimi.

Salmon is high in B-vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acid, both of which offer lots of health benefits.

Mackerel – Shime Saba

Mackerel is an excellent Sashimi fish because of its solid, oil-rich flesh and rich, creamy flavor.

Shima Aji Sashimi - Raw Japanese Sliced Mackerel

Mackerel’s rich, complex flavors complement delicate Japanese sauces beautifully, and the high concentration of fatty acids provides a slew of health benefits.

However, like with any sort of fish used in Japanese cooking, knowing how to choose, cut, and grade your fish is critical for reaping both health and tasty benefits.

Scallop – Hotate

Not technically a fish, but definitely one of my favorite types of sashimi.

Raw scallop, called hotate in Japanese, almost melts in your mouth when you eat it.

The soft texture and light taste goes well with a small drop of citrus like lime or lemon and a tiny amount of soy sauce. It’s the perfect combo.

Halibut – Ohyo

This tough fish tastes best when served in incredibly thin slices.

halibut sashimi

It has a mild flavor, but is high in collagen, which is excellent for your skin’s health.

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