The art of sashimi and sushi making has been passed down for nearly 2000 years in Japan and has gained widespread popularity, even in western countries. With a reasonable sashimi knife and a little bit of practice, any good home cook can master this technique, although you won’t be as good as real sushi chefs unless you train for up to 10 years!
Have you ever thought about how textures and colours in food can make a difference to taste? Or how about the different sensations in your mouth depending on how a certain fish or meat is cut (ie. thickness, angles etc)? Sashimi (sliced raw fish) is one of those foods where enjoyment can really depend on the knife skills of the chef and different sizes, shapes of the fish can make such a big difference when it’s consumed. Over the years, I’ve found that I like slightly more chunky pieces of fish where I’m able to get a bit of chew out of it. This enhances the flavours and textures and makes them taste better.
Yuye is by no means a fantastic sushi chef but through a little bit of practice at home and with the aid of a great sashimi knife purchased from Japan, he was able to master the techniques to an extent. I’m very clumsy when it comes to knife work so I’ve left this skill to him. The secret is to have a long sharp knife that’s able to cut through the fish in one long stroke. This keeps the grains of the fish intact and produces a smooth even cut. Although you should hold the fish to keep it from moving while you cut it, you should never push down on the meat so it gets squashed.
We always buy skin on salmon fillets for sashimi as it’s very fast and easy to take the skin off and the skin can then be pan fried for a crispy, delicious treat that’s full of omega 3. Why would you not when it’s cheaper and you get more enjoyment out of it?
We love to have sashimi with fresh pieces of cucumber and avocado as these fresh ingredients counters the oiliness of the fish and brings out the flavours even more.
You can also choose to make chirashizushi which is a bowl of rice topped with different seafood (cooked or raw), you’ll just have to buy small pieces of a few different types of fish, or even raw scallops, sweet prawns and uni (sea urchin). The choice is yours.
Sashimi donburi (rice)
Time to prepare: 20 minutes
Time to cook: 5 minutes
• 1 piece of good quality salmon fillet, skin on (roughly 300g)
• Quarter long cucumber or half small cucumber, cut into thin slices (cut more if you like more)
• Half avocado, cut into thin slices
• Flying fish roe (tobikko), available from Asian supermarkets in the frozen foods section
• shichimi (Japanese 7 spices)
• Light soy sauce
• Steamed rice and miso soup to serve
1. Putting the salmon fillet with skin side down, cut the salmon with a long sharp knife vertically down roughly at the centre of the fillet – stopping as you reach the skin, remember to not cut through it. Lower the knife to about 30 degrees angle, glide the knife forward in one motion (if possible) very close to the skin to separate the fillet. If you can’t do it in one motion (due to the knife not being sharp or long enough) you can do the motion a few times, although this will result in an uneven cut.
2. Turn the fillet around, hold onto the skin part that’s already cut, put the knife at the edge of the fillet and slide the knife the other way to completely skin it.
3. Now that you have 2 pieces of salmon, you can proceed to cutting sashimi pieces. Starting from the edge of the knife closest to you, pull the knife towards you as you cut the sashimi (to about half centimetre thickness). Remember to not hold it too firmly to prevent squashing the flesh.
4. Use the nicer pieces as actual sashimi and any offcuts or irregular piece for the cooked version.
5. To cook the sashimi, first sprinkle both sides of the fish with shichimi and salt.
6. Spray a little bit of oil in a flat pan and sear both sides of the sashimi on medium high heat for roughly 1 minute or until just changed colour. Do not overcook as it’s best consumed still slightly raw on the middle.
7. Sprinkle the salmon skin with shichimi and salt as well. Turn the heat of the pan to high and pan fry the skin until crispy and golden brown. Watch that it doesn’t burn.
8. Mix a desired amount of wasabi in a small bowl of soy sauce and serve with steamed rice, cucumber, avocado, flying fish roe and miso soup (optional).
Question time: Do you eat raw fish? Do you own a sashimi knife and do you cut your own sashimi at home?