Sashimi is easy to prepare because it generally consists of only sliced raw fish and shellfish.
The most important consideration when selevting fish to use for sashimi is freshness. Quite simply, if the fish and seafood used are not extremely fresh, then the sashimi will not be good.
For shellfish (both hard and soft-shelled) extremely fresh usually means alive at the time of purchase and kept alive until required.
As a rule, frozen fish should be avoided when preparing dishes to be eaten raw. This is not only due to the health risk associated with fish that is less than fresh, but also because the flavor and texture are usually compromised. A generally accepted exception to this rule is tuna and squid which have been flash-frozen.
Some fish and seafood are precooked before being used in sashimi, sush as prawns, crab or lobster. Salmon is often smoked or salted, octopus and eel are often boiled or marinated. For sashimi, only the best parts or cuts are normally used. For example, the body of squid and only the prime fillets of a tuna are used.
Preparation – The devil is in the details
The precise way that various types of fish and shellfish are sliced, the combination of ingredients, and especially the presentation are all elements that elevate sashimi to the level of art. A professionally arranged platter with sashimi is a feast for the eyes. Often the fish is presented on bamboo leaves together with thin strips of fresh radish (daikon) and small ice cubes. The interplay of colours can be enhanced by a careful choice of decorations – different types of roe, a pair of green shiso leaves, or a small fan of finely sliced avocado. Fish that is unskinned, for example,shiny mackerel, adds a special dimension.
Soft fish, such as salmon and tuna, are cut into thicker slices than firm fish, such as flatfish and ocean perch, or octopuses.
Ikizukuri is a particular, slightly bizarre type of sashimi, which some might consider rather off-putting. To make it, a fish that has just been killed is cut up and artistically reassembled on the skeleton before being served.
Sashimi can also be prepared as tataki. The fillet of the fish is first lightly seared on all sides and then sliced. Tataki is especially impressive if made with red tuna because the deep red of the raw fish really stands out against the cooked brown edges where the myoglobin of the muscles has lost its colour.
Often sashimi makes up the first part of a Japanese meal; it is typically served before the sushi. It is eaten by dipping the individual pieces in soy sauce into which wasabi has been mixed. Between bites, the palate is refreshed with a little picked ginger, gari.