Japanese cuisine is well-known around the world. But I know a lot of people who get confused with certain Japanese courses such as sushi and sashimi. I can’t blame them because one, the two dishes sound alike.
In fact, the term “sashimi” is often interchanged with the word “sushi” in some countries. I encourage you to continue reading so that you will realize that there’s a world of difference between sushi and sashimi. And you can do yourself a favor as you will avoid embarrassing yourself the next time you are at a sushi bar!
What is sushi?
Sushi is vinegared rice that is mixed with other ingredients like raw fish, sushi ginger, green tea and the familiar wasabi. It is a staple dish in Japan. The word means “it is sour” in Japanese which is because it was originally preserved in salt.
Yes, sushi used to be fermented until the 17th century when the contemporary version came about. These days, fermentation is no longer needed. The dish has also evolved into a fast-food type.
In Japan, sushi is very simple that it usually doesn’t have more than one kind of fish or more than one kind of vegetable. You will also be surprised to learn that the Japanese don’t even mix ripe avocado on sushi.
Authentic Japanese sushi also doesn’t have names like Spider Roll or Caterpillar Rolls. These are Cali-style rolls that are prominent out West, particularly in the US.
However, this doesn’t mean that there is a lack of variety in sushi. Far from it, as the Japanese are known to value variety in their foods.
The following are the various types of sushi that you might encounter:
- Nigiri--usually oblong shaped with wasabi on top and one topping draped over it.
- Maki rolls—tube-shaped pieces of vinegared rice and other ingredients and draped around seaweed sheets.
- Temaki--- shaped like a cone with vinegar rice on the inside and nori on the outside.
- Inarizushi—fried tofu that is filled with rice.
- Narezushi—it is fermented fish that is combined with rice and salt. This one is preserved several months before being eaten.
What is sashimi?
The word “sashimi” means pierced body. It is thinly sliced raw meat, typically fresh salmon or tuna. It is frequently served with white radish and pickled ginger.
So in short, sashimi always contains fresh raw meat. Sushi, on the other hand, may not contain meat or seafood but it would always have vinegared rice.
That’s the main difference between sushi and sashimi.
There are other differences, but let’s talk more about sashimi first.
Like sushi, there are different kinds of sashimi. The following are some of the most commonly served in sushi bars:
- Magura-- or tuna, this is probably the most widely-served kind of sashimi. It comes in two grades-- premium (otoro) and medium (chutoro)-- depending on fat content.
- Sake-- or salmon, this is another fish widely served or used as sashimi. This fish as a tender, bright orange flesh. It is fatty and delicious.
- Tai-- or sea bream, this white-fleshed fish has a mild and subtle flavor. The Japanese usually serve it during weddings and New Year’s Eve.
- Saba-- another popular fish, saba is usually served as sashimi when it is in the season. It has an oil flesh that’s meaty and best enjoyed with green onions and ginger.
- Ika-- or squid, it has a mild flavor and firm texture.
Aside from fishes and squid, other types of seafood such as shrimp, octopus, scallop, and clams are used or served as sashimi.
Other Differences of Sashimi and Sushi
There are other differences between sushi and sashimi.
One subtle difference is the way these two Japanese courses are eaten. In eating sushi, wasabi is usually placed first on top before the sushi is dipped in soy sauce. On the other hand, wasabi and soy sauce are traditionally mixed before the sashimi is dipped into the mixture.
Moreover, sashimi is served first before the rest of the meal. It is traditionally served as an appetizer, although there are also restaurants that can give you the option when to eat it. In most restaurants, you can only get five pieces of sashimi for every serving.
On the other hand, sushi can be a small meal in itself. I usually serve it as a party nibble. Some restaurants serve it as an appetizer. You can get two to six pieces per serving, depending on the establishment.
Many people think that sushi and sashimi are one or the same. But as you have learned, sashimi is plain slices of raw fish or meat while sushi is vinegared rice topped with slices of meat or fish. That, in a nutshell, is the main difference between these two popular Japanese dishes.
Do you have other friends who get confused with sushi and sashimi? Share this on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, so you’ll help them realize the differences between these two Japanese courses.