Updated: May 20, 2020
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Sashimi Guide: Types, Is it Safe?, Nutrition, and More!

Sashimi is a quintessential part of Japanese cuisine. This page will give you a brief history of the iconic dish, as well as answer your sashimi-related questions such as 'what's the difference between nigiri and sashimi?' and 'Is it safe to eat sashimi?' We will also introduce the most popular types of sashimi in Japan. Enjoy!

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History and Definition

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Sashimi (刺し身) is very fresh raw fish (or also meat) that is thinly sliced and served uncooked. The word sashimi literally means "pierced body (of fish and meat)" in Japanese. The Japanese started to call it sashimi back in the 14th century to avoid using kirimi (切り身/cut body) because they considered the word "kiri" (cut) as a bad word. "Kiri" is used for instance in the widely known expression "hara kiri" which literally means cutting the stomach.
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Sashimi became popular in Edo (today's Tokyo) in the 17th for mainly two reasons. 1. Fishing techniques became more advanced and fresh seafood became increasingly abundant. 2. Soy sauce became widespread. It made the flavor of raw fish less "fishy".

What's the difference between sushi and sashimi?

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above = sashimi / below = sushi
The simple difference between sashimi and sushi (nigiri) is that sashimi is just a piece of raw fish or seafood, whereas sushi is a piece of sashimi used as a topping for vinegared and mirin-seasoned rice.

Is it safe to eat sashimi?

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Yes, it is safe to consume raw fish (sushi and sashimi) as long as it has been properly cleaned and prepared. However, if buying fish from the store to eat as sashimi, make sure that it is labeled as safe to consume raw. If you're buying it in Japan, look for the words 生食用 (nama shoku you) or 刺身用 (sashimi you).

Is it healthy to eat sashimi?

Calories and nutrition of sashimi vary depending on the fish (or meat) and the part of the that is used. Generally speaking, because sashimi is not cooked - which preserves entirely the vitamin and mineral content - and the seasoning is minimal, it is widely considered a healthy food. Tuna sashimi, for instance, has around 40kcal/30g, and contains about 8g, a good amount of vitamin E and Omega 3 fatty acids.

Types of sashimi

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A variety of ingredients are used as sashimi. Usually, sashimi refers to raw fish, but seafood like shellfish and even uncooked red meat and chicken is consumed as sashimi in Japan. In any case, the most important point to making good sashimi is that the ingredients be fresh. The fresher the sashimi is the less fishy the taste will be and the nicer the texture will be.

The following section will introduce the major types of sashimi are likely to encounter if you go to a sushi restaurant.

Toro (fatty tuna)

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Maguro (tuna) is one of the most popular types of fish for sashimi as well as sushi. Depending on which part of tuna is used, the name of the sashimi changes. The fatty parts are called "toro" (the fattiest part is "Otoro"), and they are characterized by being more marbled.

Akami (red meat of tuna)

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Another type of tuna sashimi is the "akami", which literally means "red body". It is low in fat and has more of a fishy taste. It is cheaper than toro because most of the tuna fish is made of this akami.

Sake or Shake (salmon)

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In Japan salmon is called sake or shake, and is another common and popular type of sashimi. The fatty part of salmon sashimi is also called "toro-salmon".

Buri (yellotail)

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Buri is a cheaper kind of sashimi and you can easily find it in grocery stores. It has a bit of harder texture. Young buri is called "hamachi" and the best season for buri is winter.

Katsuo (bonito)

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Katsuo sashimi is commonly eaten after grilling it slightly. The inside is still raw but the outside is grilled. Katsuo is, in fact, a type of small tuna, so the taste is similar to that. You can eat it with a citrusy ponzu sauce.

Sanma (pacific saury)

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Sanma is a very common autumn fish in Japanese cuisine. People eat it raw as well as grilled. It's silvery grey shining skin gives adds an interesting visual aspect. The word sanma (秋刀魚) in Japanese is made up of the characters for, fall, sword, and fish.

Iwashi (sardine)

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Iwashi is also a type of fish most delicious in the fall. It has a soft texture and you can even eat the fine bones.

Saba (mackerel)

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Saba sashimi is rarely eaten as is. Most often, it is marinated in a vinegary sauce before being consumed. So not all sashimi is purely raw.

Fugu

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Fugu is a very interesting and unique ingredient for sashimi because this fish has parts that contain a strong neurotoxin that can be fatal. Chefs need a special license to serve fugu in Japan. It tastes great and of course, you can eat it without worrying about the poison! It's often served in thin translucide slices and goes well with a ponzu sauce.

Tako (octopus)

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Tako has a very different texture from fish sashimi. It is chewy and almost "gummy". The Japanese like to have a variety of textures when they eat sashimi.

Ika (squid)

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Ika has a similar texture to octopus, but more it is more slippery and smooth. People love tako and ika in Japanese mostly for the texture they provide.

Hotate (scallop)

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There are various kinds of shellfish sashimi and hotate is one of the most come types. It is said to have an exquisite sweetness.

Akagai (ark shell)

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Akagai literally means "red shellfish" and is also called "blood clam" in English for its color. It has quite a hard texture.

Basashi (horse meat)

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Raw horse sashimi (basashi) is often seen in izakaya (Japanese style taverns) as it goes well with drinks like sake and beer.

Niwatori No Tataki (chicken sashimi)

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This may be surprising to many people as raw chicken meat is considered a high-risk food for food poisoning, but the Japanese have eaten fresh chicken meat sashimi as a delicacy for a long time. The chicken sashimi may be slightly simmered on the edges before being served.

How to make sashimi

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Sashimi simplest dish. All you need are fresh ingredients and a sharp knife. The are no rules in terms of the thickness of slices. It's better to cut perpendicularly to the lines in the fish and at a slight angle.

How to eat

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Sashimi is served with soy sauce and condiments like wasabi paste and grated fresh ginger. The savory soy sauce goes well with sashimi and the strong taste of wasabi and granted ginger give a kick to sashimi nicely. In Japan, sashimi set meal is always served with rice and miso soup too.

The ultimate dish of natural taste

Sashimi is a very simple yet delicate dish that has been loved by the Japanese for a long time. Try various kinds of sashimi and find your favorites!

If you're in Tokyo or planning a visit, why not check out this all-you-can-eat sashimi buffet:
haru
I love traveling and eating. My favorites are everything matcha and cheesecakes.

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