Sashimi: The Kinds You Don’t Hear About Outside of Japan

  • When you think of sashimi, you probably picture neatly-sliced, bite-sized pieces of deep-red raw tuna, pink salmon, or even white sea bream. These are indeed among the most popular types of raw food served in Japan, and in the Japanese restaurants all over the world. But there are dozens of other delicious foods served raw in Japan. You might find some of them less appetizing to a foreign diet, and some even look strange, but there are many worth trying, especially to the open-minded foodies.


    Seafood is the most obvious type of sashimi. In addition to the obvious tuna, salmon and snapper, all kinds of other shellfish and mollusks are served raw in many establishments around Japan. Octopus and squids are among the most common. More extensive menus, in, perhaps, more local establishments (usually in towns famous for their seafood) might feature shellfish like shrimps, turban shells, abalones, and oysters.


    A lesser-known type of sashimi, even around Japan, is goat sashimi. I came upon it in an Okinawan izakaya. Goat meat tends to have a gamey stink to it. However, goat sashimi is typically served cold, even partly frozen, which takes away the smell. It’s sliced more thinly than fish, and is pretty tender!


    Then there’s tori-sashi! Chicken sashimi! Many Westerners may shudder at the thought. In the United States, especially, eating raw chicken is considered high-risk for contracting salmonella. In Japan, there have been a few cases, but they are rare. Chickens in Japan are raised on a much smaller scale than those in the United States, and the quality of the meat is much higher. Restaurants that serve chicken sashimi only offer it when they can get chicken that meets a certain standard of freshness. The texture is soft and delicate. It is best dipped in soy sauce, or a sauce made from the citrus known as yuzu. Ever since I first tried it, I look for it in every izakaya I go to!


    Finally, another popular kind of sashimi you might not have tried yet is horse sashimi, ba-sashi. It’s sometimes listed on the menu as “sakura niku”. Horse sashimi is quite tender, a bit chewier than beef. But the flavor is just as rich, and has a slightly different aftertaste. One of the most famous regions for horse sashimi is the Western area of Kyushu, particularly Kumamoto. But you can find horse sashimi all over Japan, depending on its availability. If it’s available, it will probably be featured on a list of daily specials or recommendations. It’s delicious, also commonly eaten dipped in soy sauce, and I highly recommend it!

    Next time you find yourself in an izakaya in Japan with a taste for culinary adventure, try asking what kind of sashimi they’re offering that day! Happy eating!

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