Sunday, May 13, 2012


SASHIMI roughly translates as "pierced body". Usually raw product, but sometimes cooked. Most often creatures that come from the sea; but those raised on a farm, or foods from the field are certainly not unheard of. No rice invloved. Slices of the finest product a Japanese Chef can procur for his guests goes under the name of "MORIAWASE". A mixed plate of the best available sashimi items.

An example of Sanbiki's "Moriawase" sashimi includes (left to right); Big Eye tuna, squid, tamago (savoury omelette), BC Albacore tuna and Sockeye salmon)

MAGURO refers generally to tuna. In Canada, salmon and tuna are bestsellers. BC Albacore is a wonderful, sustainable "white" tuna that has a mild flavour and melts in your mouth. "Red tuna" is usually Big Eye or Ahi and has a meaty texture and deeper flavour than Albacore. The very expensive, very delicious King of Tuna is the Bluefin. Sadly it has been fished to near extinction in most of the waters where it was once plentiful. Big eye is an excellent alternative and our choice for the "red" tuna we serve at Sanbiki.

Big Eye Sashimi, hook and line caught from the Pacific. Sustainable sashimi!

"SAKE" or salmon, has traditionally not been served raw in Japan. Usually it is prepared salted and grilled. Salmon can harbour parasites that can cause serious illness if not destroyed by cooking or freezing the fish. No doubt there were more than a few cases of food poisoning that made past Japanese Chefs realize salmon was not the best candidate for sashimi/sushi fans! Nowadays, all salmon served as sashimi must be  frozen under Health Department regulations. This ensures the fish is safe to be consumed raw.

                                             Wild Sockeye salmon sashimi at Sanbiki

Other popular sashimi seafood includes "HOTATE" (Scallop) In Japan the best of the best scallops come form the North (Hokkaido and northern Honshuu) Firm and sweet they are sometimes garnished with TOBIKO or flying fish roe. The tiny orange or gold eggs add a touch of saltiness and provide a splash of colour.
                                               Scallop Sashimi from Aomori in Northern Japan

"HIRAME" translates as "flounder", although in Japan there are many different species, large and small served as sashimi. "TAI" is another delicate "white fish" that is perhaps the most prized fish in Japan and a symbol of good luck. Like many fish, some parts are served raw as sashimi or sushi, but nothing goes to waste. The head and cheeks are often grilled, and any leftover bits and pieces find their way into hot pots or stocks.
                                 Like many "white fish", HIRAME is served very thinly sliced with a ponzu (citrus  soy) dipping sauce. Wasabi and straight soy would destroy the fish's delicate flavours.
SABA is mackerel. A fish with a high oil content, it is often lightly cured in a vinegar mix before serving. This balances the natural oiliness of the fish. Very finely chopped fresh ginger or green onion commonly accompanies saba sashimi. Again, it adds a lovely fresh, herbal note to the dish.

Saba sashimi
IKA is squid. Sometimes served completely raw, but often blanched or seared to make the texture firmer and crunchy.

                                                    Ika sashimi right out of the sea!

Another member of the "cephalopod clan" is TAKO (octopus) For sashimi and sushi the octopus is often blanched to transform some of the creature's chewiness into crunchiness. Squid, octopus and cuttlefish may be large or small species and adults or babies depending on where and when they are served.

Octopus ("Tako") sashimi

TORO is the fatty belly of the tuna and melts in your mouth. Interestingly, toro is a realtive newcomer to the sashimi plate. Fatty tuna used to be considered lower quality than the lean loin part of the tuna. Some people say that as Japan opened up trading and ties to Western countries, richer, fatty foods becamer more prized. As tastes changed, people began to appreciate the fatty tuna.

Various cuts/grades of toro show their differing fat contents and marbling

Horse meat is uncommon in North America but in Japan it can be found served raw as sashimi. Again different marbling and fattiness can be seen in the various cuts.

Basashi (horse meat) sashimi
TAMAGO is a slightly sweet and savory omelette that also finds its way on to sashimi plates. Many Japanese sushi fans will order tamago to start their meal when they visit an unfamiliar sushi bar. It is said that if the Chef can handle the preparation of tamago well, then chances are other sashimi will be delicious.

Tamago is prepared using a special rectangular "omelette" pan

Sushi and sashimi quality seafood can be difficult to obtain outside of Japan. Most Western countries insist that all seafood served in raw preparations be frozen to ensure that potentially harmful parasites are destroyed. This is particularly important with salmon and certain kinds of reef fish. It may surprise some Canadian sushi fans, but studies have shown that over 90% of the seafood served in their local Japanese restaurant was frozen at some point. Usually the quality is also better if a fish is Frozen-At-Sea (FAS) and stays frozen until it is ready to be served.

In Japan fresh is of course preferred. However eating good sashimi and sushi in Japan involves taking the Chefs advice on what is in season, locally sourced and delicious. What you find on a menu in Japan varies widely depending on where you are and the time of year. Of course, some frozen product is used in Japan and Canada exports lots of frozen tuna, Spot Prawns and other seafoods abroad.

                                    Frozen sashimi quality seafood is available at Mori Mori Grocery

IKIZUKURI is the somewhat contraversial preparation of live seafood. A Chef will pluck an unfortunate creature from a tank, slice up the body (leaving the internal organs intact) and reassemble the body to be consumed by waiting diners. Lobster is also served this way. Antennae weaving even as his body is consumed...

There are many more kinds of sashimi out there. Sanbiki has all your favourites and we always have sustainably-sourced options available. In season, we can also sometimes get specialty items like UNI (Sea Urchin Roe) Hope to see you soon for Sashimi Supper!

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