Sashimi is a Japanese dish that consists mainly of thinly sliced raw fish and other seafood. Other than a garnish of radish or some other cruciferous vegetable, this dish is typically only accompanied by a dipping sauce. The sauce is often made of sweet ginger, spicy wasabi, and savory soy sauce. It is common in Japanese restaurants to have sashimi served with a small empty bowl and the ingredients for the dipping sauce to allows diners to create their own blend. Lemon juice is sometimes also added for acidity.
The word sashimi literally means “pierced body.” This may have to do with the fact that the fillets of fish are sliced raw. Some believe that this term comes from the traditional way of serving the fillets in which the tail or fin rests atop the dish to denote the type of fish that is being served.
In traditional Japanese dining, sashimi is often the first course. It may also be served as an entree, however, when accompanied with a bowls of rice and miso soup, a traditional Japanese soup made with a fermented soy base, cubes of tofu, and seaweed. Raw items are served as a first course because of its delicate flavors. It is believed that, if the dish follows a rather strong course, that the flavors will not be as noticeable or enjoyable. This dish is always intended to be eaten with chopsticks.
Many Japanese restaurants offer a house sashimi plate that includes an array of different fish, although it is often possible for dinerer to design their own plate. In this instance, it is important for the customer to know the Japanese names of the fish. Salmon is referred to as sake, tuna is maguro, and fatty tuna is toro. Saba refers to mackerel, while yellowtail fish is hamachi. Of course, this dish is not exclusively fish. Squid, or ika, and tako, which means octopus, can also be included. While sashimi is almost always a raw dish, shrimp is often served as a cooked addition. Cooked shrimp is known as ebi.
Restaurants that offer this dish also usually offer sushi. Sushi is also a raw fish dish, but the slices are draped atop a mound of rice. It also often incorporates ingredients other than raw fish, such as seaweed, vinegar, and other spices.