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What is Sashimi?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Sashimi is an important element in Japanese cuisine, where it is often served at the beginning of a meal as a palate cleanser and appetizer. It is often compared to sushi, another popular Japanese dish, although the two are actually different. Sashimi is raw fish sliced very thin and served with a variety of garnishes and sauces. Sushi is served with rice, and often appears wrapped in specially treated seaweed known as nori.

Saltwater fish is always used to make sashimi because many freshwater fish species contain parasites that could cause intestinal distress if eaten. In addition, the fish is fresh and of the highest quality to ensure its optimum flavor and healthiness. Many restaurants keep their fish alive in saltwater tanks, ensuring that the fish can be prepared to order. When going out for this cuisine, diners should pick a reputable restaurant with an obvious supply of fresh, high quality fish. When preparing it at home, cooks should make sure that the fishmonger knows that they intend to eat the fish raw, so that he or she can recommend the safest and freshest specimens.

Sashimi is often prepared at a bar so that customers can watch the chef. This tradition probably stems from a desire to make sure that the fish being used is fresh and of the highest quality, but it is also very interesting to watch. Chefs use a very sharp knife to fillet the fish, removing potentially dangerous bones along with the skin. Then the fish is sliced very fine and beautifully laid out on a platter along with the garnishes and sauces of choice.

Common garnishes include pickled vegetables such as ginger, shredded daikon radish, and toasted nori. Sashimi is usually also served with soy sauce and wasabi, and some cooks add ground ginger root to the soy sauce for an extra dimension of flavor. The fish and condiments are arranged so that consumers can easily pick up pieces and garnish with chopsticks before dunking them in the sauce.

Seafood used for sashimi commonly includes bluefin tuna, snapper, abalone, bass, fish roe, prawns, mackerel, bonito, shad, octopus, and squid. The fatty part of tuna, known as toro, is particularly prized because it has a creamy, melt in the mouth flavor. Western consumers often enjoy this dish made with tuna and mackerel, and they sometimes have difficulty with the rubbery texture of raw squid and octopus.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon990957 — On May 18, 2015

What if you don't like the food but don't want to be rude? I can't eat raw fish, not even sushi?

By JaneAir — On Dec 09, 2012

@Azuza - I've never seen a restaurant that had live fish either. The only thing I've ever seen on display in a restaurant is lobster in the tanks in the front. I find that kind of morbid, but I know they do it for freshness.

By Azuza — On Dec 08, 2012

I eat sashimi sometimes, but I've never seen a restaurant that keeps a fish tank on display for the customers. I'm assuming these places either keep them in the back, or get their fish fresh in the morning.

I don't think I would assume a restaurant didn't have fresh fish just because you can't see the fish tank.

By Pharoah — On Dec 07, 2012

@SZapper - If you like sushi, you should give sashimi a try. If it's a question of sashimi vs. sushi, I actually don't think I could choose, because both are good. When I go to a sushi place, I like to get both sushi and sashimi while I'm there.

By SZapper — On Dec 07, 2012

I know that sushi and sashimi are not the same thing, although both are made from raw fish. However, I've noticed that a lot of restaurants that are billed as sushi restaurants serve both sushi and sashimi.

I guess this makes sense, because the two dishes are very closely related and use a lot of the same ingredients. The condiments are also the same (wasabi, ginger, and sauce).

However, I have to say that I usually prefer sushi. I'd rather eat a roll with some other things in it than a piece of raw fish.

By anon138575 — On Jan 01, 2011

How long will previously frozen sashimi keep in the refrigerator?

By FrameMaker — On Jul 24, 2010

@ ValleyFiah- Don't be fooled by the word 'fresh' when looking for sashimi grade fish. Unless you are eating your sashimi within two hours of catching it, you always want to use previously frozen fish as sashimi. Many fish species (even ocean fish) have trace amounts of bacteria in their flesh. Once the fish is killed, the bacteria will multiply unhindered.

Sashimi grade fish is high quality fish that was frozen as close to being caught as possible. The FDA only states that fish eaten raw be frozen for seven days at -4 degrees Fahrenheit, or for 15 hours at -31 degrees Fahrenheit.

Besides that, a few connoisseurs may expect that the angler kill or handle the fish in a certain manner to retain flavor. Just be sure that any fish you eat raw is frozen according to FDA guidelines so that all bacteria has been eliminated.

By ValleyFiah — On Jul 24, 2010

@ FrameMaker- That sounds like good sashimi, but for those of us who do not live near the coast, how do we know if fish is sushi or sashimi grade?

By FrameMaker — On Jul 24, 2010

I spent much of my childhood in Hawaii, and I had some of the best sashimi tuna I have ever had on the Big Island. Many of my parents friends were sport fishermen and we would tag along for day trips every once in a while. They would fish for everything from tuna and shark to marlin and swordfish to rock lobster and octopus.

Slicing pieces of fresh tuna right on deck was common practice. The taste of still warm tuna is out of this world. A little soy and wasabi was all that was needed (maybe a cold beer too).

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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