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6 Little-Known Tips for Eating Sashimi that Will Elevate Your Meal

Sashimi is one of the dishes that best represents Japanese cuisine. Eating fresh fish raw and unadulterated is a unique part of Japanese culinary culture, but has been gaining more and more attention in other parts of the world. That’s sashimi in a nutshell, but there are a few points to grasp which will make eating sashimi an even more delicious experience. So here are six tips you'll want to know when enjoying this dish!

What is Sashimi?

Sashimi is one the most iconic Japanese foods, consisting of raw seafood that is thinly sliced into easy-to-eat pieces, dipped into soy sauce and eaten. Originally, it was called “kirimi” but due to its derivation from the word “kiru” meaning “to cut”, which is an unlucky word, the name was changed to “sashimi.” In the Kansai region, “sasu” (the word sashimi comes from) was a similarly unlucky word, so it was called “tsukurimi”, and that's how the word “tsukuri” came about. Nowadays, “tsukuri” is used to refer to the food when it is served up on a large platter or boat, and “sashimi” is used when it's presented otherwise.

1. Is There an Order in Which You Should Eat Sashimi?

Sashimi is basically divided into two kinds: light and rich. When you are served only one kind of sashimi, eat it from left to right. When there is a variety of types served, it is recommended to eat the light types first, including squid, scallop, and white-flesh fish such as sea bream and flounder, followed by the rich types, such as tuna and mackerel. Although salmon is technically a white-flesh fish, it’s considered a rich type due to its fattiness, while amberjack is considered a light type even though it has red flesh. Next time you order sashimi or tsukuri, try asking the chef what order you should eat it in!

2. What is the Proper Way to Use Wasabi?

Even some Japanese people mix their wasabi into the soy sauce, but since this dulls the flavor of the wasabi, you should avoid doing this if possible. In Japanese cuisine, the act of mixing itself is generally not considered to be a good thing. The best way to do it is to take a small amount of wasabi with your chopsticks and place it onto the piece of sashimi and then dip into the soy sauce. By doing so, you’ll get a perfect balance of the fish flavor and wasabi aroma.

3. What is the Proper Way to Dip It in the Soy Sauce?

There are also some points to take note of when dipping the sashimi into the soy sauce. You should try to avoid pouring the soy sauce directly onto the sashimi, or soaking both sides of the sashimi in the soy sauce. In order to get maximum enjoyment from the individual flavors of the fish and fragrant wasabi, lightly dip only the underside that hasn’t got wasabi on it into the soy sauce.

4. Can You Eat the Garnish that Accompanies the Sashimi?

The finely sliced daikon radish strips, perilla leaves and so on that accompany the sashimi are called “tsuma” and are meant to be a palate cleanser. Sashimi is often served beautifully alongside or on top of these, and it is common to eat the tsuma alone or together with the sashimi. In addition to daikon radish and perilla leaf, other garnishes may include carrot, kabocha, seaweed such as wakame, and shiso leaves. It's suggested to try these dipped lightly in soy sauce.

5. How Do You Eat the Condiments?

Aside from wasabi, there are other condiments that go well with the flavors of sashimi. Typical condiments include myoga (Japanese ginger), ginger, citrus fruits such as kabosu, sudachi and lemon, and the tip of the shiso plant. Myoga and ginger are eaten by wrapping them in the sashimi then dipping the outside in soy sauce, and citrus fruits are usually either squeezed directly onto the sashimi or into the soy sauce. By plucking the tips of the shiso and scattering them into the soy sauce, it looks more visually appealing and the soy sauce develops a shiso flavor.

6. What Kind of Sashimi Should You Eat When You Visit Japan?

The kinds of fish caught depends on the season, so if you go to the effort to eat sashimi, make the most of it and eat the best of the season's fish. For example, in spring, try new bonito, Japanese Spanish mackerel, yellowtail, octopus and eel; in summer, try shad, abalone, swordfish and horse mackerel; in autumn, try Pacific saury, tuna, white trevally, mackerel and squid; and in winter, try tuna, Japanese amberjack, flounder and mackerel. If you can't decide what to order, order an assortment at an izakaya (Japanese pub) or Japanese restaurant.

These are the main six points for eating sashimi, including the correct order of eating sashimi, how to use the condiments, and more. When you eat sashimi in Japan, it will be even more delicious if you can follow these tips!

*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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