Sashimi Favorites

  1. 1.
    Albacore (shiromaguro)
    Aka "white tuna", but be careful because some places might serve you escolar, which apparently can give you the shits. Relatively inexpensive, sustainable, lower in mercury than regular tuna. Delicious with grated daikon radish and ponzu sauce.
  2. 2.
    Yellowtail (hamachi)
    Hamachi is another white fish that is slightly fatty but not overwhelmingly so. Also relatively inexpensive and moderately sustainable.
  3. 3.
    Tuna belly (chu-toro)
    You probably have heard of toro—fatty tuna—if you've been to a sushi restaurant a few times. Fatty tuna is not a different fish but rather an expensive cut from the belly. Chu-toro (chu means "medium" in Japanese) is a less fatty cut that I prefer. Slightly easier on the wallet than full toro and perhaps more appealing to your palate! Since it is tuna, mercury content is high and sourcing may not be sustainable depending on the type of tuna.
  4. 4.
    Scallops (hotate)
    Sashimi scallops are moderately sized, a little bigger than a golf ball in diameter. They are supple to the touch and have a mild sweetness. I much prefer them to clams. Moderately priced and sustainable.
  5. 5.
    Horse (basashi)
    Sashimi is actually not limited to fish. Basashi ("ba" means horse and "sashi" refers to the sashimi cut) is thinly sliced marbled horse meat that looks like top-grade beef. The flavor is very close to beef as well, and it is served with a thicker soy sauce. It is expensive but if you enjoy steaks done rare or carpaccio, I recommend trying basashi. It is a speciality item in southern Japan.
  6. 6.
    Skipjack tuna (katsuo)
    Flavorful and dark red, katsuo is often served lightly seared. It has a more pronounced flavor than regular tuna. It is also used to create bonito, which you may have heard of for soup stocks.
  7. 7.
    Salmon (sake)
    The most popular sashimi in the Western Hemisphere, sake (pronounced the same but different than the alcohol!) is slightly fatty. It was not traditionally served as sashimi in Japan until the last few decades with the invention of flash freezing. Sake is inexpensive and very sustainable if farmed.
  8. 8.
    Freshwater eel (unagi)
    Unagi is usually served grilled with a teriyaki-like sauce. The sweetness of the sauce pairs the umami from the unagi. The thought of eating "eel" is uncomfortable but I love unagi. Go figure. Unfortunately eel fishing is not very sustainable.
  9. 9.
    Sweet shrimp (amaebi)
    This isn't your typical shrimp sushi. Amaebi are small prawns shelled and served raw. They have a slightly sweet taste and a slightly glutinous mouthfeel. Somewhat expensive but fishing is considered sustainable.
  10. 10.
    Bluefin tuna (hon-maguro)
    Perhaps the quintessential raw fish, the deep red hon-maguro is a favorite in Japan. Compared to the lighter yellowfin tuna, hon-maguro (hon means "true") is colored deep red and has a more bodied flavor. However due to the high mercury content and unsustainable fishing, there have been campaigns to encourage salmon consumption, which is on the rise.
  11. 11.
    Saltwater eel (anago)
    Similar to unagi in taste and preparation but less fatty. For that reason I prefer it less, even though it is traditionally more expensive.
  12. 12.
    Yellowfin tuna (kihada-maguro)
    You will most likely see kind of maguro at sushi buffets, in grocery-store sushi, and in rolls. It is a cheaper, more plentiful fish compared to bluefin tuna. It is lighter in color like a dark pink rather than deep red, and has a weaker flavor. Somewhat more sustainable than bluefin (almost everything is) but still high in mercury so limit consumption to a couple times a month.
  13. 13.
    Chicken (torisashi)
    It is carefully prepared from a healthy bird and demonstrates its freshness. I haven't heard of Salmonella cases and food laws are strict in Japan so I believe it's safe, but frankly I don't think it's that good. The meat is tough and gluey and it tastes fairly bland like you might imagine raw chicken to taste. It's hard to find stateside and I believe it's expensive too.