How To Cut Sashimi: An Easy To Follow Guide
There are very few foods that are as pure as sashimi. There’s just so much to love about this dish!
A single high-quality ingredient with a simple presentation can be one of the most delicious meals out there. The concept of sashimi is so simple, and the outcome is delicious!
So, in order to bring this Japanese dish into your home, we’re going to learn how to cut and prepare sashimi the right way. There’s a lot to know about how to cut sashimi, so let’s get started!
What Should You Know About Sashimi?
First, let’s go through some of the things we need to know about sashimi.
Many people often confuse sashimi with sushi and nigiri. Sushi consists of fish, rice, and other ingredients. The rice is flavored vinegar and sugar to add a light, tangy taste to the raw or cooked fish.
Nigiri is when the seasoned rice is formed into balls, and a beautiful cut of raw fish is laid across the top. It is a beautiful piece of sushi that could take a sushi chef years to master!
Sashimi is even more straightforward. It is exclusively about a delicious sampling of fresh, raw fish and is often presented over a nice bed of daikon, a Japanese radish.
The main difference is that sashimi isn’t served with rice. It is purely focused on the delicate and delightful raw fish.
Should I Wash Sashimi Before Cutting It?
The short answer is, “Yes!” Raw fish needs to be carefully prepared. It is best to run your cut of fish under cold water once or twice and then pat it dry before slicing.
It is also essential to sanitize your knives and surfaces beforehand and keep your hands and kitchen surfaces clean while preparing your sashimi. This will reduce the risk of contamination. With raw fish, there is no heat involved that could kill the bacteria, so it’s essential to take extra caution.
What Are The Different Sashimi Cutting Techniques?
There are a few different techniques for cutting sashimi. The techniques differ in the shape of the cut, and you’ll use a different technique depending on which fish you’ve decided to use. Here are some of the most common sashimi cutting techniques.
Hira-zukuri is the most popular sashimi cutting technique. When you visualize those delicious cuts of tuna, salmon, or kingfish, hira-zukuri is what you think of. This method is best for oily fish that are filled with flavor.
With this technique, you will cut the fish into rectangular slices about one centimeter thick. They tend to be visually striking and make for a good-sized bite of mouth-watering, buttery fish.
Kaku-zukuri is a less popular method, but it has some delightful presentations. For kaku-zukuri, you will cut the fish into squares or cubes that are about two centimeters in length on each side.
Although it’s not as popular as hira-zukuri, it is still a great technique for fish with more tender meat, like bonito.
Usu-zukuri is one of the more difficult cuts to execute. With usu-zukuri, you will slice your fish into rectangular pieces that are so thin, they’re almost see-through.
This technique is mostly used for white fish. Whitefish have meat that is more firm than other fish, so the thin slices make it easier to get an enjoyable bite.
Iki-zukuri is quite an interesting sashimi technique, but it is somewhat controversial. For this method, the fish is cut and prepared while the fish is still alive! The intent is to minimize the amount of contact the fish has with anything else to limit cross-contamination.
Cutting With the Grain vs. Against the Grain: What’s the Difference?
This is one of the most essential questions for cutting and preparing sashimi. When preparing sashimi, you need to cut against the grain. There are a few different reasons for this.
First, it keeps the pieces from falling apart. Cutting with the grain can disturb the pieces’ integrity. If you cut with the grain, the pieces will fall apart, becoming stringy and not aesthetically pleasing at all.
Cutting against the grain of the filet allows for better texture. By leaving short fibers in each slice, you can achieve better consistency with each bite. Meanwhile, cutting with the grain would lead to some pieces having a lot of fibers and others having no fiber at all.
It’s also important to remember that if you’re working with a belly cut, like toro, you should not cut your sashimi with vertical strokes of the knife. Make sure your knife is at a 45-degree angle so that you can adequately cut against the grain of the fish.
How Can I Prepare Sashimi?
Now that we’ve established some helpful knowledge about sashimi, we’re ready to get into preparing this delicacy for ourselves.
Choose Your Fish
There are lots of fish to choose from for sashimi. But one big rule that you should know before picking is that you should not use any freshwater fish. Freshwater fish are more susceptible to parasites, so they are generally considered unsafe for raw consumption.
Salmon is an exception to this rule because of its duality as a saltwater and freshwater fish. But even with salmon, you’ll want to make sure you either get a fillet that has been frozen in a sashimi freezer that kills any parasites to ensure it is safe.
There is a plethora of fish to choose from when it comes to saltwater fish.
The most popular fish for sashimi are salmon and tuna, but you don’t have to stop there! Consider other great options like Izumidai (tilapia), hamachi (Japanese amberjack), amaebi (cold water northern shrimp), and even yari-ika (squid). There are so many options available and each with its own unique flavors.
Clean the Fish Accordingly
Now’s the time to clean the fish properly. For salmon, when working with whole fillets, you’ll need to remove the white strip that runs down the middle as it is tougher than the rest of the meat.
But generally speaking, you’ll need to remove any bloody parts of the fish or any excess deposits of fat. You may also need to remove bones, so it’s time to break out the kitchen tweezers!
Gently feel along the edges of the fillet to find the bones and use tweezers to pick them out.
Choose the Cutting Technique of Your Preference
As we said before, hira-zukuri is the most popular and simple technique, so if you’re new to sashimi preparation, that’s probably the best way to go. As you practice and gain more experience and try more varieties of fish, you can graduate to the kaku-zukuri or usu-zukuri methods.
One other important thing to mention is, when cutting sashimi, try to make each slice happen with only one stroke of the knife. This will lead to the cleanest cut, whereas sawing back and forth can lead to jacked cuts and can make your pieces fall apart.
You will need a very sharp knife to execute that, but we’ll talk more about that in a moment.
Plate Your Sashimi and Enjoy
The final step: serve up your sashimi and experience the delicious simplicity of a high quality ingredient prepared with care.
To serve your sashimi, you can delicately plate it over a bed of daikon. You may also want to pair it with soy sauce and wasabi for more flavor. To incorporate soy sauce and wasabi with your sashimi, dab a small drop of wasabi onto the fish and lightly dip in soy sauce. And it also doesn’t hurt to add some pickled ginger on the side as a palate cleanser between bites of fish.
What Kinds of Knives Do I Need To Cut Sashimi?
Knives are of the utmost importance when preparing sashimi. You will need an incredibly sharp knife to get the most elegant and precise cuts when preparing sashimi. Not just any kitchen knife will do!
Traditional Japanese sashimi knives are called Yanagi. These are long, sturdy knives that are incredibly effective. They are made with mostly high carbon instead of stainless steel, making the blade even thinner and sharper.
You don’t necessarily need a Yanagi knife to prepare sashimi, but it is incredibly helpful. A long carving knife with a narrow blade will suffice if you don’t have one.
How Thick Should I Cut Sashimi?
How thick you cut sashimi depends on your cutting technique and the fish you’re using. If you’re going the standard route and using tuna and salmon, it’s best to use the hira-zukuri technique, cutting your pieces about one centimeter thick.
Again, once you get enough practice with this technique, you can move on to more advanced techniques like usu-zukuri, cutting more firm fish only a couple of millimeters thick.
But if you want to accomplish such precise, immaculate cuts, it would be worth your while to invest in a quality Yanagi knife.
What Is The Most Popular Fish To Use for Sashimi?
While most saltwater fish can be used to make delectable sashimi, other popular choices carry incredible flavor and texture.
Tuna is arguably the most popular choice for sashimi. There are three types of cuts that encapsulate the broad scope of tuna meat.
First, there is akami.
Akami is the leaner meat cut of bluefin but is the most commonly used, as it is the least expensive. It has a deep, satisfying red color but doesn’t contain much fat.
The most prized part of tuna out there is called otoro. It is very high in fat, and the experience is nothing short of incredible. Otoro is bursting with umami, and the high-fat content makes it literally melt in your mouth.
Next, there is chu-toro.
Chu-toro is a medium-fatty cut of tuna. It has a decent amount of fat content, as it is on the belly of the tuna, towards the back. Chu-toro is unique as it offers a blend of the two cuts. The meaty and fatty texture combination makes for a real celebration in your mouth!
Salmon is probably the next most popular choice for sashimi. Salmon is a fatty fish, so it packs that rich, buttery texture that you hope to find in sashimi.
It’s an incredibly versatile fish. Its combination of firm texture and fatty meat makes it ideal for a sashimi experience.
When prepared for sashimi, mackerel is called saba.
Saba is usually marinated and grilled or baked. It’s got a creamy flavor that makes it delicious in all forms. That goes for raw preparation too! Mackerel retains this creaminess even when prepared as sashimi.
Squid is delicious as calamari, but that’s not the only way to eat this delectable, tentacled creature.
Squid can be sliced to lie flat for sashimi or sliced into thin strips like noodles. Raw squid has a firm, chewy texture and delicate, soft flavor. It also has a distinct sweetness to it that is pleasant and surprising.
Sashimi is an incredible Japanese delicacy, but you don’t have to go out to a nice restaurant to experience the unique flavors and textures inherent to sashimi. You can do it right in your own home.
If you’re looking for sushi-grade fish to make sashimi with, check out Umamicart. You can have delicious, high-quality fish for sashimi delivered right to your door!
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