At a given Japanese restaurant, you could have sliced maguro (tuna) on little rice balls and it would be called sushi, or you could have the same without the rice and enjoy it as sashimi. But is that really all there is to it? Both in preparation and presentation, the differences between sushi and sashimi are going to be a bit more than that. Which one is more appealing to you?
First off, there’s the shape of the fish slices. Sushi rice balls are usually oblong, so the fish is cut in a roughly rectangular shape so as to provide the most even, complete rice coverage with a bit of overhang. In the case of sashimi — or, as the people in the Osaka area call it, “tsukuri” — there is more flexibility, and often the shape can end up being vaguely trapezoidal. With sashimi, concern is taken about how the fish slices will stand up on the plate, as opposed to with sushi where the concern is how the fish slice will lie on the rice.
Accoutrements are another point of divergence. With both sushi and sashimi you will find wasabi, but in the case of sashimi, shiso leaf and also is often served. The flourish of daikon adds color (or, rather, whiteness) to the plate, and also provides a supporting element against which sashimi slices can be lined up. Not only for looks, sliced daikon also gives you some texture variation when eaten alternatively with the sashimi slices.
A nice plate of sashimi may also come with a small chrysanthemum, from the which the petals are plucked and added to the soy sauce. “Beni-tade,” or small, red-pepper water sprouts, can also be added for variety. It’s a good idea to pinch or break up the pedals a bit before adding them for best flavor.
However you choose to enjoy sashimi or sushi, the most important factor is the quality of the fish. It should be fresh and flavorful, which means you shouldn’t have to dress it up much to enjoy.
Looking to try sashimi in Tokyo?
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