The Art of Sashimi 刺身
Sashimi looks simple - but learning the techniques requires years of training
Credit: puamelia CC
A Japanese meal featuring sashimi
Credit: Norio Nomura
In the Osaka area, you can try fugu sashimi!
Credit: Raita Futo
A chef preparing sashimi inn Shiretoko Grand Hotel, Hokkaido
Cuttlefish sashimi, a speciality of Saga (Kyushu)
Abalone sashimi, a speciality of Mihama (Fukui)
Trout sashimi, a speciality of Nagano
The art of sashimi
As simple as it can appear to the naked eye, sashimi is a true culinary art. From selecting the fish to the delicate slicing of it, nothing is left to chance in its preparation. Also known as sushi, sashimi is the ideal way to taste the best and freshest ingredients. In Japan, sashimi designates the cutting of the slices of fish as a culinary art.
The choice of sashimi fish
When talking about sashimi, it is often mistaken referenced as simply slices of raw fish. However, sashimi is part of Japan's gastronomic heritage and includes not only the cutting but also the artistic aspect of the culinary composition of the fish.
The chef chooses the base ingredients of his sashimi with great care: it must always be extremely fresh. Sashimi isn't always slices of fish: it can also be slices of crustaceans or shellfish, such as shrimp or scallop. The fish most commonly used in sashimi are tuna, salmon, sea bream, mackerel and dab.
In the Osaka region, fugu (pufferfish) is also used, which is toxic if not perfectly prepared! Only certain chefs are licensed to prepare and serve it, after qualifying for an official certification awarded by the state.
Sashimi: a great art
Literally, the term sashimi means "cut body". Behind the simplicity of this dish hides lies a know-how that requires years of learning.
Not only are there special techniques for cutting fish (it's an exact art), but specific techniques apply to different fish, revealing a particular texture, or even a different taste. In fact, the same fish prepared by two different chefs may look totally different depending on how it was cut!
Read also: How to eat sushi
Of course, every fish is different, and you can't apply all the preparation techniques to any fish. The knife used to prepare sashimi (usually large - about 30cm long) is also important, as is how the other hand manipulates the fish: all these details produce unique sashimi.
The most common technique is called hira-zukuri, because it can be used on all types of fish. It's a method of cutting rectangular slices about 1 centimeter thick. A technique for producing finer slices is called usu-zukuri.
The hiki-zukuri technique isn't distinguished from the others by the thickness of the slicing, but by the arrangement of the slices during the cutting - some fish needs to be handled as little as possible, so it's positioned directly after being cut. This is what makes the difference between hiki-zukuri and hira-zukuri. Many other techniques can be added to this list, but what's important to remember is that sashimi is a complex art.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Sashimi is usually served with grated cabbage, celery or white turnip. It can also be served with other raw vegetables, such as carrots or cucumber slices. A bowl of rice (not vinegared) and miso soup can be served with the sashimi. When it comes to sauces, sashimi can be eaten with wasabi and soy sauce, like sushi.
Sashimi can sell for fairly high prices, due to the quality of the ingredients. Some rare fish or those that produce a lot of waste are among the most expensive sashimi in Japan.
Where to eat sashimi in Japan?
Sashimi can be enjoyed in restaurants specializing in sushi. It is advisable to choose a rather upscale establishment, having access to better quality fish, and employing a recognized chef, to taste the best sashimi.
Discover some of our best places to eat sashimi in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Ichiba Sushi, Tokyo
This small restaurant is located within the new Toyosu fish market. The counter seating gives you a front-row seat to see the chefs at work. The restaurant specializes in bluefin tuna sashimi, and it is one of the few restaurants that serve the whole fish. Open from 7 am until 3 pm.
- Address: 6 Chome-6-1 Toyosu, Koto City, Tokyo 135-006
Sushiryori Inose, Tokyo
A friendly place with a warm atmosphere, here you can taste nigiri sushi, gunkan maki, and of course, and a wide variety of sashimi.
- Address: 2-20-2 Higashigotanda | 1f, Shinagawa, Tokyo Prefecture
Sushi Iwa, KyotoNot far from Kyoto station is the excellent Sushi Iwa. In this refined restaurant sashimi is king! You can taste the assortment of sashimi from 3000 yen (around $27), but also fish and shellfish such as bonito, sea urchin, fugu, or abalone.
- Address: 282 Nishitamamizucho Shimojuzuyamachi-dori Ainomachi Nishiiru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto