Sashimi   刺身

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Sashimi looks simple - but learning the techniques requires years of training

A Japanese meal featuring sashimi

In the Osaka area, you can try fugu sashimi!

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 raw fish

Though it may look simple in appearance, sashimi is a true culinary art. From the choice of fish to the way of positioning the knife when slicing it, nothing is left to chance in the making of this typically Japanese delicacy.

In Japan, sashimi refers to the cutting of fish into slices 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 (puffer fish) 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.

Read: Fugu, the poisonous pufferfish

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.

To read: Tsukiji Fish Market

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.

Serving sashimi

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 with sushi.

See: Wasabi

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.

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