Seasonal ingredients play an essential role in Japanese cuisine, especially for sashimi which is demanding in terms of freshness. Sashimi can be made of a great variety of marine fish and other ingredients, leaving new tasters confused. This column aims to help readers know more about sashimi, as well as provide some useful tips for you to enjoy the delicacy.
Thanks to the rapid development of preservation technology, more sashimi ingredients can be found in domestic highend Japanese restaurants. Freshness and safety are critical. Fish can be classified as saltwater fish such as tuna, salmon and bream, and freshwater fish like carp and crucian. Arkshell, sweet shrimp, lobster, sea urchins and octopus are available depending on the season. Another category of sashimi includes the famous Waygu sashimi, delicious chicken & chicken entrails sashimi and horseflesh sashimi. Sashimi is general about 0.5cm thick, but some should be thinner or thicker – a challenge to the chef’s experience and skill. Also, in order to ensure better flavour, some sashimi is cooked slightly in advance.
Typical fish based sashimi in different seasons:
Spring: Sea Bream, Bonito, Halibut, Mackerel, Sturgeon Summer: Eel, Moray Eel, Squid, Rock Bass, Oplegnathus, Oil Fish, Pike, Ayu, Summer Sea Urchin Autumn: Saury, Albacore, Salmon, Tuna Winter: Blowfish, Winter Sea Urchin, Oyster, Peony Prawn, Sweet Shrimp
Tips for Enjoying Sashimi: Light Prior to Strong
From marine fish to sea urchin, abalone, shellfish, shrimp and crab, there is a great variety of sashimi to choose. The general rule is that light-flavoured ones are prior to strong-flavoured ones. To take marine fish based sashimi, you would start with white meat fish, and then red meat fish.
Soy Sauce, Wasabi and Refreshing Dishes
Generally, soy sauce and wasabi are suitable for all sashimi, yet it's better to enjoy simple or unique flavoured sashimi, such as sea bream, sea urchin and sweet shrimp with little or no sauces. Freshly ground wasabi is favorable. Do not mix wasabi with soy sauce in advance, instead, put some wasabi on fish and dip it in soy sauce before eating.
Sake is the best drink for sashimi, soft sake is more favorable than too sweet or spicy ones. Soju and beer should be avoided. For non-drinkers, cooled or room-temperature oolong tea or plain water is recommended. Do not choose hot tea so as not to damage the taste.