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Sashimi … Sushi With A Difference

Updated on March 6, 2012


sashimi from heaven by Bob Usher
sashimi from heaven by Bob Usher

Sashimi … Sushi With A Difference

Many people who think they know everything there is to know about Japanese cuisine often make this mistake: they confuse sushi with sashimi. There are definite and distinct differences between the two, but westerners who have enjoyed a meal or two in a Japanese restaurant frequently believe they are “two peas in a pod” … a couple of variations of a single theme.

That is simply not true. Sushi is generally presented in a seaweed roll with a dipping sauce (usually made of soy sauce and wasabi). It is delicious and wildly popular in Japan and just about everywhere else on the planet. But … it is not sashimi. In fact, sushi can be served four ways (always in a rolled-up presentation) and is often cooked, not raw. Sushi embodies lots of different foods – semi-cooked fish and seafood … vegetables … even tempura (fried foods preparations) … and, of course, raw or uncooked fish.

Sashimi stands alone and apart from sushi. By definition, sashimi is very fresh, raw seafood that has been sliced into thin pieces and served on a plate with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce with wasabi paste or other condiments, such as fresh, grated ginger.

The literal translation of the Japanese word “sashimi” is this: “pierced body.” Many in Japan believe the term is derived from the practice of sticking the fish’s tail and fin on to the plate of food so that the diner could identify his or her selection. It’s a simple idea and there is probably some truth to it.

How To Cut Fish For Sashimi

Sashimi Is Japan’s Finest Cuisine

There is no doubt that sushi is better known to gourmets around the world and is much more in demand in restaurants, as well. However, knowledgeable Japanese diners and food experts believe that sashimi is the finest dish in Japanese cuisine. As such, it is highly coveted and appreciated even by ordinary citizens in every city, town and hamlet in Japan.

In fact, sashimi is a somewhat versatile dish. It can be served as the proper first course of a formal meal; something that is likely to take place in the country’s finest homes. Or … it can be presented as a main course, served with a warming bowl of miso and a second bowl of cooked rice. To the Japanese palate, such a meal constitutes a feast.

Whether sashimi is served as the first course in a gourmet meal or it is offered as the main course in a less elaborate setting, one thing is certain: it always comes to the table in the same way: the raw fish is placed over a garnish, generally Asian white radish (known as daikon) that has been shredded into long thin strands and is accompanied by a single green perilla leaf.

That remarkably stunning presentation makes sashimi the special food that it is to the Japanese … and to westerners who have discovered it and now find it even more satisfying than sushi. Importantly, there are many, many raw foods that are used in sashimi presentations. They are all quite delicious.

Of course, many westerners still remain a bit skittish about eating raw fish, but those who have sampled sashimi’s fresh, delicate flavors know that it is a gourmet treat that needs to be savored and appreciated.

Sashimi Lunch

sashimi lunch by Sifu Renka
sashimi lunch by Sifu Renka

Sashimi-Sushi Combo

sashimi-sushi combo by ulterior epicure
sashimi-sushi combo by ulterior epicure

Sashimi As The Main Course

All of these foods are available in sashimi dishes. The list of foods that end up on a plate as sashimi is surprisingly large. Then again, the Japanese people consider it to be their ultimate and finest cuisine. Here are the food items you may be able to order if you elect to try sashimi the next time you patronize a Japanese restaurant.

You can select any of the following food items: salmon (sake) is not traditionally a Japanese food fish, but it has grown in popularity in recent years. There is also squid (ake) … cooked shrimp (ebi) … tuna (maguro) … mackerel (saba) … horse mackerel (aji) … octopus (tako) … fatty tuna (toro) … yellowtail (hamachi)  … and scallop (hotate-gai).

How To Eat Sashimi

Sashimi Restaurants

It’s important to know-before-you-go to a restaurant serving sashimi that octopus is almost always cooked while just about every other type of seafood is served raw. There is also a vegetarian sashimi that is made out of bean curd skin and sashimi dishes comprised of the meat of a horse or a chicken. Yes … a horse. Horse meat is popular in Japan and, interestingly enough, chicken is a delicacy that can be hard-to-get.

Now, before you make a face and promise yourself that you will never – NEVER – taste a sashimi dish, give it a second thought. Remember: in Japan, sashimi is considered to be the top of the food chain – the very finest dish in that country’s excellent cuisine.

So, don’t say no … say maybe. And then … plan to try a sashimi dish the next time to dine in a Japanese restaurant. Who knows … you may actually like it.


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    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 5 years ago from Pasadena CA

      I love sashimi. There's a restaurant in Pasadena called A'Float Sushi that serves both. They charge more for sashimi, of course, but it's not prohibitive. One of the photos you've used in this hub is exquisite and is making me so hungry right now!

    • XimphOnni profile image

      XimphOnni 7 years ago from Originally from the garden

      Amazil I agree I also have one on just Sushi

      that is mmm...MMM...Good.

    • amazil profile image

      amazil 7 years ago from Savannah, GA

      mmmm... sushi.