The more you know, the tastier it is! Complete Information on Sushi Ingredients – White Meat Edition
Various types of fish and shellfish emerge as sushi toppings every season. Shiromi fish are relatively light in taste, but they are filled with refined flavors. Knowing about fish will make the sushi taste even better, won’t it? Here are some of the shiromi used in sushi.
What is shiromi?
Sushi shops categorize toppings into akami (red meat), shiromi (white meat), and hikarimono (fish sliced with the silver skin left on). Some common shiromi fish are tai (sea bream), hirame (flounder), sawara (Japanese Spanish mackerel), karei (righteye flounder), suzuki (Japanese sea perch), kanpachi (greater amberjack), buri (Japanese amberjack), hamachi (young yellowtail), shimaaji (striped jack), and isaki (chicken grunt). Shiromi contain lots of collagen and many of them are less fatty than akami, so they are low-calorie and have a light taste.
Tai (Sea Bream)
In Japan, tai is such a favorite among sushi lovers that there is a saying: "kusatte mo tai." This phrase means that anything of excellent quality will not lose its original value even if it deteriorates a little. This fish is widely available in spring. It can be caught all over Japan, but the tai that comes from Seto Inland Sea is known to be particularly delicious.
There are several kinds of tai in Japan, including madai (red sea bream), kidai (yellowback sea bream), chidai (crimson sea bream), kurodai (black porgy), and amadai (tilefish). They can be served in many delicious ways, including simple slices, sandwiched between kelp, or dipped into hot water for a few moments before cooling. Young tai is called kasugo, and it's often prepared for sushi in a manner called "sushime" (pickled in vinegar).
Hirame is the other major representative of shiromi in Japan. It is mainly used in sushi as-is or after being prepared in konbujime (sandwiched in between slices of kelp). This fish is caught all over Japan, but they are plentiful in Aomori and Hokkaido. It is in season from fall until winter, and from fall until spring in Hokkaido. The flesh that moves its fin is called “engawa” and it is famous for its sweet taste and its chewy texture.
Sawara (Japanese Spanish Mackerel)
Sawara is called different names as it grows, so as a young fish it is called "sagoshi" or "sagochi," and after a certain size it becomes "nagi" or "sawara." It is mostly found in Kyoto, Fukui, and other regions on the side of the Sea of Japan, as well as Nagasaki and Shimane. In particular, it is frequently eaten in Okayama. This fish is best characterized by its transparent white meat. Take a bite and you will feel its fat melt in your mouth, making it a delicious fish with a high-quality kind of sweetness. Slightly broiling its skin is also recommended.
Karei (Righteye Flounder)
Karei is the term used for various kinds of fish, including magarei (brown sole) and makogarei (marbled sole). While flounder has an image of being high-class, karei has a light but rich flavor that will let you enjoy the fragrance of the ocean. It is delicious when served as konbujime or as engawa, similar to hirame. Makogarei is said to be the highest quality fish within the flounder group, and it's caught everywhere in Japan. Its season is in summer.
Suzuki (Japanese Sea Perch)
Suzuki is another representative shiromi topping in the summer. Its name also changes as it grows, so depending on the size, it is called "seigo," "fukko," and finally "suzuki." It is normally caught in Shimane. Suzuki has a transparent appearance, a moderate texture, and a characteristic light flavor. The taste of this fish varies greatly depending on the season, so eat it during summer to get the best flavor.
Hamachi (Young Japanese Amberjack), Buri (Japanese Amberjack)
This fish goes by different names as it grows, with names like "mojako," "wakashi," "inada," "warasa," and "buri." The name also changes slightly depending on the region. The taste depends on the size, and the large fish caught wild are buri while medium-sized farmed fish are hamachi.
Amberjack is mostly farmed in western Japan, and with the advancement in farming technology in recent years, its taste has also become comparable to that of wild fish, so tasty amberjack is now available throughout the year. Hamachi and buri have a rich taste given their rich fat content, but hamachi has more fat, while buri has a firmer texture. In particular, the fish caught in Toyama Bay with the most amount of fat is referred to as kanburi.
*The fish in the top photo is hamachi, the one on the bottom is buri.
Kanpachi (Greater Amberjack)
For Kanpachi, the small size is eaten in the fall and the large ones caught between fall and winter. Kagoshima is famous for kanpachi. While it's often mixed up with hamachi and buri, this fish is actually from a different species. It has a firmer texture than hamachi and buri. While it's called shiromi, it's filled with fat, so it has a sweet, delicious taste.
Shimaaji (Striped Jack)
Shimaaji is caught from late spring until summer, mainly in the Izu Islands, Kagoshima, and Kochi. It is known as the highest quality fish within the mackerel family. Horse mackerel is called aji and is a hikarimono that's also famous at sushi restaurants. Shimaaji has a great balance between high quality fat and flavor, so it has a mild aftertaste. Farmed shimaaji is fattier.
Isaki (Chicken Grunt)
Isaki can be eaten all year round, but its peak is from late spring to summer. This fish is typically caught in the Izu Islands and Nagasaki. While it's a shiromi fish, it has a relatively high amount of fat since its entire body is covered in it. It has the aroma of the ocean and a sweetness brought by its high quality fat. Its flesh is tight, so it has a good texture for sushi.
Shiromi is a topping with a flavor that is difficult to grasp by appearance alone. Try to taste some shiromi the next time you're out for sushi.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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