Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sashimi – just plain raw

Sashimi is easy to prepare because it generally consists of only
sliced raw fish and shellfish. With a fresh fish at hand, you can make
sashimi in a matter of minutes. It sometimes occurs to good friends
of mine who go fishing to slice up fish that they have just caught,
right in the boat, and eat them on the spot. This is probably exactly
what our distant ancestors did in prehistoric times.

All fish and shellfish which can be eaten raw can be made into
sashimi. Given that sashimi by definition indicates something that
is cut up, oysters cannot, strictly speaking, be classified as sashimi.
Also, there are fish and shellfish which cannot be consumed raw,
but which must first be cooked, salted, or marinated. Cases in point
include shrimp, cuttlefish, and mackerel. Slices cut from these seafoods
can also be used for sashimi.

Preparation of sashimi, however, amounts to more than just cutting
up pieces of fish and, as in many other things in life, the devil is in
the details. The precise way that various types of fish and shellfish
are sliced, the combination of ingredients, and especially the presentation
are all elements that elevate sashimi to the level of art.
A professionally arranged platter with sashimi is a feast for the eyes.

Often the fish is presented on bamboo leaves together with thin
strips of fresh radish (daikon) and small ice cubes. The interplay of colours can be enhanced by a careful choice of decorations – different
types of roe, a pair of green shiso leaves, or a small fan of finely  sliced avocado. Fish that is unskinned, for example, shiny mackerel,  adds a special dimension.

Soft fish, such as salmon and tuna, are cut into thicker slices than
firm fish, such as flatfish and ocean perch, or octopuses.
Ikizukuri is a particular, slightly bizarre type of sashimi, which some
might consider rather off-putting. To make it, a fish that has just
been killed is cut up and artistically reassembled on the skeleton
before being served.
Sashimi can also be prepared as tataki. The fillet of the fish is
first lightly seared on all sides and then sliced. Tat aki  is especially
impressive if made with red tuna because the deep red of the raw
fish really stands out against the cooked brown edges where the
myoglobin of the muscles has lost its colour.
Often sashimi makes up the first part of a Japanese meal; it is typically
served before the sushi. It is eaten by dipping the individual
pieces in soy sauce into which wasabi has been mixed. Between
bites, the palate is refreshed with a little picked ginger, gari.

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