To the untrained eye (or palate) sushi and sashimi may seem like one and the same. But these popular fixtures in Japanese restaurant menus, sushi and sashimi, are entirely different items.
Here's an in-depth look at each that will help you distinguish one from the other.
Comparing sushi with sashimi
Sashimi refers to the meat (usually fish) that is often served without using other ingredients. Sashimi is often prepared with raw fish. However, there are variants where the fish is cooked, or other types of meats are used.
Sushi, on the other hand, is made with rice and other ingredients, usually veggies. These ingredients are then rolled up in either a nori sheet, or seaweed. After that, sushi is sliced into smaller pieces.
Another Japanese dish that is often confused with the two is nigiri. You can call nigiri a hybrid between sushi and sashimi because it is prepared and served with rice molded into a rectangle.
Sushi literally translates to vinegared rice in Japanese. Sashimi, on the other hand, is translated as pierced or stuck meat. This goes back to the practice of sticking the fins and tail of a fish to the slices in order to help diners identify the fish they can order.
Sushi can be eaten on its own. However, it is usually served with shoyu or Japanese soy sauce. Sashimi, on the other hand, is also served with dipping sauce; usually soy sauce with wasabi paste mixed in. Many restaurants drape the seafood over a garnish, usually daikon or white radish.
Sushi is usually served with wasabi and ginger. Ginger is typically served in between courses to help cleanse the palate. Wasabi, on the other hand, is usually mixed with soy sauce.
Types of sushi
Maki consists of rice and a filling that is wrapped in seaweed. When people talk about sushi rolls, they are usually referring to this dish.
Uramaki, on the other hand, is similar to maki. The most significant difference is that the rice is placed outside while the seaweed is used to wrap the filling. The fillings may either be raw or cooked, and the dish is typically served with a variety of toppings and sauces.
Temaki is a type of sushi that is rolled into the shape of a cone.
Some culinary experts classify both nigiri and sashimi as types of sushi.
Common sashimi meats
Although different types of meats and fish can be used for preparing sashimi, most chefs and Japanese restaurants use saltwater fish. The primary reason behind this is that some freshwater fish contain parasites which may cause stomach problems.
Among the most common types of fish that are used for creating sashimi are tuna, sweet shrimp, deep-fried or boiled saltwater eel, cooked tiger shrimp, round clam, raw yellowtail belly, halibut, scallops, squid, salmon, sea urchin, and omelet.
Many types of sashimi can be made into sushi rolls. Some chefs even combine different kinds of meats and vegetables to create their version of a sushi roll.
Here's a brief list of some of the more popular sushi rolls. Take note that the way these are prepared may vary from one restaurant to another.
- Tiger rolls are composed of shrimp tempura, cucumber, fish eggs, and avocado.
- The dynamite roll, on the other hand, has yellowtail, shrimp tempura, carrots, avocado, cucumber, chili, bean sprouts, and spicy mayo.
- Rainbow rolls contain fish or crab cake, cucumber, tuna, avocado, salmon, shrimp, and yellowtail.
- California roll consists of avocado, sesame seeds, cucumber, and crab.
- Spicy tuna roll contains mayo, chili sauce, and tuna.
- Shrimp tempura roll is made up of avocado, shrimp tempura, eel sauce, and tempura flakes.
Many restaurants now offer vegetarian options for their sushi rolls, using ingredients like cucumber, avocado, and kombu seaweed.
The proper way to eat sushi and sashimi
Sushi may be eaten either with chopsticks or with your bare hands.
If you are going to eat sushi with chopsticks, the proper way to do it is to position it on its left-hand side. This will allow you to dip the sushi into the sauce easily compared to putting the dish on its right side.
Start by picking up a piece of sushi such that the side where the meat is placed is positioned downwards. That is the part that you should dip into the soy sauce. If you pick up the sushi with the rice side facing down and dip it into the soy sauce, you will ruin the whole sushi because it can collapse.
If you are eating sushi using your hands, you should also position it so that it is lying on its left side. To pick up the sushi, use your thumb, index, and middle fingers. Next, dip the side with the topping into the soy sauce and then bring the sushi to your mouth.
When your order of sashimi is served, it will come with soy sauce and wasabi. Do not mix all the wasabi into the soy sauce. The Japanese consider this to be bad etiquette. Instead, put a small amount of wasabi on the sashimi before dipping into the soy sauce.
The right amount of wasabi will differ from person to person. Do take note that wasabi is spicy and aromatic. Mixing it directly into the soy sauce makes it lose its aroma.
Want to learn more interesting facts about your favorite Japanese dishes? Read our other blog posts for more helpful and interesting information.