How To: Preparing Sashimi
Today, many of us enjoy a range of Japanese dishes, and would like to learn more about preparing them ourselves. What discourages most individuals about taking on this cultural cuisine in their own kitchens is its deceptive simplicity. The underlying tenets of presentation are those of minimalism and quality. Japanese sashimi, one of the many delicious preparations this culture has to offer, brings understated elegance, purity of form and ingredients, and wabi sabi—a philosophy that finds beauty in natural imperfections and the impermanence of the world—to the fore.
Sushi and sashimi chefs train for decades to produce works of art that can be consumed. It’s almost an understood aspect of haute cuisine in that country—you will need years to master rice. But at the end of this period, no one will make better or more perfect rice than you. So how can we enjoy sashimi in our own homes without dedicating decades to the single-minded pursuit of perfection? Below, we’ll offer some tips and tricks to produce attractive and delicious sashimi in your kitchen for your family to enjoy or to wow guests at a dinner party. It won’t detract from those who dedicate their lives to its creation. If anything, learning how to create your own will offer you greater appreciation for the true masters of the craft.
Making a Piscatory Selection
While almost any meat can be eat as sashimi—whether beef or poultry—the most popular type of animal protein prepared in this way is from the sea. Seafood and fish are what many people associate with the cuisine. In Australia, kingfish, tuna, and salmon are the most popular selections, although a number of shellfish and other types of sea dwellers may also be on the menu.
It’s important that your fish be fresh, in terms of quality. Don’t go to the grocer’s for a packet of frozen fillets under any circumstances. Rather, make contact with a service whose sole business is providing the highest quality meats available for a variety of cuisines in your private kitchen. Butcherman is one such company, which offers some of the most pristine Tasmanian Huon Salmon. The clean, slightly sweet and briny flavours of salmon are especially suited to sashimi. Local sourcing allows you to make the most of your education in the cuisine, because it’s incredibly fresh and inexpensive.
While you would learn dozens of ways to slice your fish in the course of study under a master chef, experts agree that there are only a few basic cutting techniques required for the avid enthusiast. Since Butcherman delivers its products already dressed and ready for their starring role in the kitchen, you don’t have to learn how to cut and skin a whole fish. Rather, follow the basic principals listed below:
• Hira-Zukuri – This rectangular slice is most common. Beginning on the side of your dominant hand, draw your knife down from its base to tip in a single, clean vertical stroke. Thickness can be anywhere from a fraction of a centimetre to more than a centimetre. Commonly used for tuna and salmon, arrange the slices in a standing line.
• Usu-Zukuri – Perfect for thin slices of white fish such as bream or flounder, this cut begins on the left of your fillet. Draw the knife in an almost horizontal angle across the top of the fillet (across the grain).
• Ito-Zukuri – Called the thread slice, this is excellent for seafood such as squid. Such a technique draws attention to the texture of the seafood, and different widths create a variety of such textures.
• Kaku-Zukuri – The square slice is used for soft, thick-muscled fishes like tuna and creates cubes.
Garnish and Sauce Work Together
Presentation is as important as content in this cuisine. Your fish slices will be arranged with three different types of garnishes—called Ken, Suma, and Karami.
Ken is a basic condiment, placed at the rear of the plate. It’s typically bland or less flashy on the palate—and may even serve as a prop for fish slices.
Suma can mean an assortment of herbs, blossoms, and flavours that are specifically selected to heighten the texture and taste of the fish with which they are eaten.
Karami is spicy and piquant. While wasabi is most widely used, the type of this condiment served is determined by the type of fish. Hot mustard, pickled or fresh ginger, and mountain wasabi are popular in different regions that favour different fish.
While you may not aspire to become a master, that doesn’t mean you can’t take great pleasure in producing beautiful and delicious sashimi in your private kitchen. By focusing on freshness and beauty of both technique and presentation, your family and your guests will never know you’re a novice. Enjoy the process of creating as much as you do that of consumption, and you can’t go wrong.