Monday, May 28, 2012



NIGIRI is "piece" sushi, and it's quickly becoming as popular as sushi rolls ("maki sushi") outside of Japan. Small "fingers" of seasoned sushi rice are served with various toppings, usually raw seafood, but other items as well. This is a quick and dirty guide to some of the most popular nigiri sushi in Canada...

MAGURO refers generally to tuna. Tuna may be "red" (pictured below) as with bigeye, ahi or bluefin tuna. Bluefin is considered the "King of Tuna" but has been fished to the brink of extinction. Albacore tuna is a white tuna with a mild flavour and melt in your mouth texture.
                                               "Red" tuna served nigiri style
TORO is the fatty belly part of the tuna. It's sometimes served as NEGITORO with finely chopped green onion. Ordering TORO means paying a premium price! In Japan, there are several different "grades" of TORO depending on how much fat is present and the degree of marbling. 
                                                      Various cuts of TORO
SAKE. The pronounciation is almost the same as the alcoholic drink, but refers in sushi terms to raw salmon. Not a traditional "NETA" (topping) in Japan, salmon is usually served salted and grilled. Salmon served raw must be frozen to kill potential parasites. Fresh and seasonal fish is always preferred in Japan for sushi and sashimi, which is why salmon was not traditionally served raw. 
            Sockeye salmon nigiri is here cut "Tokyo" style, long thin slices of fish draped on the rice
EBI are cooked large prawns. AMAEBI are raw "sweet" prawns. EBI are very popular in western countries; AMAEBI are a Japanese favourite.
                               EBI are cooked prawns, AMAEBI are different species served raw
UNAGI is a BBQ freshwater eel served warm with a sweet and savoury "kabayaki" sauce (below left)
ANAGO is sea eel prepared in a similar fashion (below right) Both are rich and fatty and also popular served over steamed rice as DONBURI (rice bowls).
IKA is squid, usually just the "tube" is used at Canadain sushi bars but in Japan, "fairy" squid are small and served whole.

                                                       Fairy squid served whole

TAKO is octopus, usually blanched, to provide a crunchy and chewy texture at the same time. It has a mild flavour; similar to squid and cuttlefish. Depending on the Chef, it may be garnished with a hint of sauce.

TAI that is sold outside of Japan is rarely the red snapper that is held in high esteem at Japanese sushi bars. Instead, tilapia or other generally tasteless fish are sold as TAI or "white fish". Japanese Chefs will often "cure" true snapper in konbu (seaweed) overnight to infuse it with a subtle taste of the sea. When it is very fresh, a little of the skin is left on the fish.

                   Japanese TAI has a delicate flavour that is overwhelmed with too much soy/wasabi

HIRAME is flounder, fluke, or other kind of flatfish. Halibut is usually called OHYO. The meat taken from the edge of the flat fin is particularly prized and goes by the name ENGAWA.

HIRAME served garnished with herbs to accentuate the mild, slightly sweet taste

IKURA are salmon eggs, TOBIKO are flying fish roe and MASAGO the roe of capelin. They are all usually served "gunkan style". GUNKAN means battleship and alludes to the shape of the nigiri. UNI are sea urchin "gonads" (ovaries and/or testes!) and are also served gunkan style.

                      UNI served "gunkan" style. To add soy sauce, dip a piece of ginger in soy and then dab on the top of the nigiri. Don't dip gunkan sushi directly in soy sauce as it falls apart!

Scallops are HOTATE, served whole and they may be garnished with tiny TOBIKO (fish roe) to add a hint of saltiness to the sweet scallops. Chopped scallop is popular too, mixed with mayonaisse and tobiko.

                                                     Whole scallop sushi with TOBIKO
There are many hundreds, perhaps thousands of different types of NIGIRI! Even veggies, omelette and meats may be served as NIGIRI.

SOBA (buckwheat) sprouts served as NIGIRI


Soy sauce and wasabi are to be used sparingly. At a high end sushi bar in Japan the Chef may "instruct" you on how to eat his creations. He will likely add the necessary wasabi between the fish and the rice.

When dipping in soy sauce and wasabi, dip fish side down and just the edge of the fish (not rice first as the nigiri disintegrates!)

NIGIRI should go into your mouth fish side down this way the flavour and texture of the sushi can be fully appreciated.

Don't be afraid to ask your sushi Chef to recommend what he feels are the best available NIGIRI choices. OMAKASE means "the choice is yours" and in this case a Chef will decide your meal for you. OMAKASE is generally only available at true Japanese restaurants with professional Chefs. The budget for an OMAKASE meal usually starts around $50, but can go to hundreds more!

NIGIRI is usually ordered a few pieces at a time. A proper Japanese Chef may be offended if you order a large plate full and then leave it to dry out before eating! Also order lighter, delicate white fish first and then progress to more fatty/oily fish and/or strongly flavoured foods. TAMAGO is a sweet and savoury omelette that is sometimes ordered first in Japan to see how skilled the Chef is at preparing his dishes.

GARI is the pickled ginger that is served as a palate cleanser between different kinds of fish. It is not intented to be a "topping" for the sushi.

Use your hands! It is acceptable to eat nigiri and sushi rolls with one's hands. Sashimi (seafood or other items without rice) is always eaten with chopsticks. If you like to enjoy your NIGIRI in smaller bites, you can ask the Chef to cut the pieces in half.

More next time, until then eat and enjoy your NIGIRI!

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!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sanbiki's making movies!

We're on youtube!

May is the BC SPCA's City Challenge month! Kamloops vs. Prince George, who can raise the most cash to help our local critters in need??

Sanbiki has organized a fundraising dinner with special Bento boxes (Japanese multi compartment box filled with tasty treats!) Choose from Teriyaki chicken, Sushi (california/Dynamite roll) or Variety with spring rolls, veggie and potato croquettes and much more! Meat free is no problem. $20 with all profits ($10) to our local Kamloops SPCA. Prepay/register at Sanbiki or the Kamloops shelter.

   Watch the video, find out what we really want, tell us at the   dinner and get a freebie! May 14 at 5:30!

Also available are homemade Hello Kitty cookies! $2 ($1 to SPCA) They are a hit so far with our customers! Large pre-orders/"cookie platters" available too!

Friends on 4 legs have not been forgotten! Hills Science Diet has donated high quality dog treats...we've dressed them up and they are on sale at Sanbiki and next door at Mori Mori Grocery!

                      Help us support the Kamloops SPCA, May is City Challenge Month!