Making Japanese Fish Dishes At Home

I’ve been trying to eat healthy, and although I eat fish fairly frequently would like to eat it more. I feel I have mastered mussels, Jerk Shrimp and Masala batter. But I have been reluctant to try chirashi or sashimi even though I love the stuff. Sushi is great too, but I want the taste without such fiddlesome efforts.

There are previous threads on ceviche, also an interest. There is a home sushi thread that does not give up to date advice. This is not really about sushi as such anyway.

There is a great article on raw fish at SeriousEats.com - these are my takeaways:

  • Sushi restaurants flash freeze fish at -60 to kill parasites. This is much colder than most freezers and presumably grocery stores. Not convinced every sushi place has this though.

  • I cannot do that. I can pick fish less likely to be unsafe. Farmed fish has been criticized for using antibiotics. But they monitor for parasites. Farmed Atlantic salmon is quite safe, if fresh. Farmed fish is much less likely to have parasites.

  • Ceviche “cooks” the fish in lime juice, which might help? Japanese cuisine uses yuzu, kind of like lemon lime.

  • Sushi-grade is a marketing term. It might help if it means flash deep frozen, but may not mean anything.

  • Freshwater fish is much more likely to have parasites, so use saltwater fish.

  • Fish can be torched or fried for 15 seconds to add complexity and flavour.

  • Lobster surimi probably safe - but not authentic.

  • Sushi rice uses sweetened rice wine or vinegar, or yuzu. Pickled ginger and fake wasabi can be purchased.

  • Our local grocer sells sushi boxes with a best before date 4-5 days after preparation. Say what? Obviously, they have access to low risk fish? If this is safe, how bad can my effort be?

My super quickie version of chirashi:

  • Microwave cup of instant rice
  • Add some wasabi mayonnaise and stir
  • Add soy sauce and squirt of lime and lemon
  • Add dash of sweetened rice vinegar
  • Buy fresh farmed salmon filet and slice thin against grain, put on rice
  • Also tried soaking salmon in citrus juice to cook it, and using lighter to warm surface

I gotta say, it was a very tasty effort. Not going to be mistaken for anything I had in Japan. But better than the grocery store sushi, cheaper, and maybe four times as much fish. Will do it again. Could make it in ten minutes. Sure, real sushi has no mayo but it’s what I had on hand. Maybe some bonito flakes and daikon strips would help.

I have not done it yet, but so can the real stuff. $20 for 20 grams.

As long as you don’t feel a need to be authentic, or, perhaps, less authentic, you’ve got tons of options. My favorite in terms of ease is shrimp nigiri. You’ve probably seen versions at most grocery store sushi shops, but you have cooked, butterflied shrimp wrapping a hand molded cylinder of sushi rice. With or without wasabi (I normally use Penzy’s wasabi powder, which is (like most US ‘wasabi’) mostly horseradish, but with some wasabi mixed in along with spinach powder to give it the green color we now expect.

I also have a few triangular molds so I can make wrapped onigiri filled normally with cooked salmon marinated in soy sauce, ginger, ponzu and red pepper flakes. Or if I’m in the mood, make homemade pickled vegetables (normally garden cucumber, bell pepper and red onion in rice wine vinegar with a splash of soy sauce) for my wrapped option. And for that matter, simple roasted red bells, skinned, and briefly soaked in soy can be cut into strips and make a fine topping for nigiri or filling for maki.

There was a thread a while back when someone claimed that fresh fish was unavailable anywhere in the U.S. I and others quickly and thoroughly debunked this claim. While it’s best and most reasonable if you live near the coastline (it’s all coastline her in Hawaii! ), fresh fish of any type is available if you’re willing to pay for it.

That said, some of most expensive tuna in Japan is flash frozen and sold whole. On a Japanese TV show, a sushi chef wrapped the pieces of frozen fish in konbu (large strip seaweed) to add some of the ocean flavor back into the fish.

While there is some risk in eating fresh fish, generations around the world have been eating fresh sashimi and sushi without, to my knowledge any major outbreaks.

Not sure what you mean by instant rice, but you can get par cooked microwavable rice. I keep a stock of Nishiki rice bowls on hand when I don’t feel like cooking a whole pot. The package says it’s great for sushi, which I don’t know about, but it is a premium rice and much better than other brands I’ve tried. At ~$2 a bowl, I think it could probably make a few maki rolls or 8-10 nigiri.

Be sure to let it rest for at least 10-15 minutes after you microwave it Otherwise it will be really sticky on the bottom.

I think I’ve seen precut frozen tuna at Costco and Sam’s Club. We have a local wholesale restaurant store that’s open to the pubic and I’ve bought the precut tuna from there. Eaten as sashimi, it’s identical to what I’ve eaten at the robo sushi places. Good, but not as great as fresh!

If you set that goal aside, try some spam musubi. There are recipes and instructions online for the marinade and construction.

If you stick with fish, a tutor is ideal. Early in the pandemic I bought poke bowls from a food truck that were spectacular. I asked the owner some questions and we’ve since become friends. He’s given me tips, and let’s me know when special purchases become available. We’ve split pricey pieces of fish that I’d never even known existed.

First thing to learn is how to make rice. You could spend months perfecting which rice to purchase, seasoning your rice, cooling techniques, etc.

There are fish cutting tutorials on YouTube.

If you happen to read German (not impossible with your name) I can warmly recommend the book “Meine Japanische Küche” by Stevan Paul. Best book (for westeners) on Japanese cuisine I ever read. I see there are translations into Dutch and Spanish but I find no English.
As to your OP, I believe

No, it does not help at all wrt parasites.

I do not think so. Anisakis is the most common parasite in European fishes and it befalls only saltwater fish. Toxic algal blooms happen rather in the sea too.

Yes to all three.

I would not eat that. :nauseated_face:

The relevant information from the linked Wikipedia article on anisakis:

The areas of highest prevalence are Scandinavia (from cod livers), Japan (after eating sashimi), the Netherlands (by eating infected fermented herrings ( maatjes )), Spain (from eating anchovies and other fish marinated in escabeche ), and along the Pacific coast of South America (from eating ceviche ). The frequency in the United States is unknown, because the disease is not reportable and can go undetected or be mistaken for other illnesses.

You see fermenting and marinating do not prevent parasitic infections.

I prefer authentic sushi and have had actual wasabi before. I do not hope to become an expert, master complex skills or use risky fish.

However, my goal at home is to be able to make a quick lunch with most of the correct flavours which is healthy, quick and filling. Here, I do not care about authenticity. I am satisfied I have done this. I think farmed Canadian salmon, present in Canada at every grocer, can be a pretty safe choice if bought fresh from a reliable place and consumed immediately. I have no need to try a variety of fish - going with what is fresh, tasty and available.

At any rate, I am not convinced the fish is of very different quality from that used in the sushi and sashimi boxes sold at grocery stores here - which no one would mistake for the stuff one has in Japan. If this stuff is good for five days… Anyway, it is not hard to look for parasites as per the above article. I’ve eaten plenty of ceviche from clean looking but unfamiliar stalls and lived to tell the tale.

What kind of fish are in these sushi boxes? There are Japanese preparations that use raw fish with enough vinegar and other ingredients to preserve the fish for several days but I doubt that’s what’s being done in this case. OTOH I have seen sushi boxes in local stores that use no raw fish. I still won’t eat them, they don’t even look appetizing.

Are you making Tomago? It is not very difficult to make and a great ingredient for home made sushi. You can also prepare your own Gari. Blanch thin slices of ginger and pickle them yourself. A lot of bottled versions are made with artificial sweetener and you can stick to real sugar doing your own.

I lost track of a great place in La Jolla that would bring in an airfreight shipment from the Tokyo Fish Market every day and then FexEx it out to you. You could get plenty of raw, frozen, and preserved fish and other sushi supplies. I think they must be out of business, I haven’t been able to find a trace of them for years. There aren’t many varieties of raw fish I want for good sushi. Tuna and salmon are largely sufficient, though I use raw clam and oysters and eat those anyway. I did like getting the preserved mackerel though. It’s rarely found unpreserved but freshly packed it’s delicious. The crab stick I would was great quality and never frozen so it had a flavor I can’t find in any locally available product. I’ll use cooked shrimp, lox or smoked salmon, pickled sea scallops, and cooked crab. There’s a lot of variety available besides raw fish.

There are some local sushi restaurants that have branched out into producing bento boxes at better local grocers. They occasionally have a person on site. The boxes are simple rolls and sashimi. They mainly just use salmon, tuna and butterflied shrimp. They are basic, sort of tasty, cost $6-15. But nothing that would be hard to replicate or possibly improve on. The main question is good safety, which I now believe can be managed.

I assume they use farmed salmon which tends to involve antibiotics and have few parasites. Tuna apparently does not have parasites. I don’t know what shrimp they use. I presume antibiotics or preservative are involved if a box has a best before date of 3-5 days after the preparaton date. They are kept in a refrigerated area.

The above website suggests bacterial infection is a bigger risk than parasites and stress cold product, clean preparation and freshness. Great. This is my main concern too.

Canadian salmon is my favourite fish, anyway, given the lack of availability here of good fatty tuna (of which nothing is tastier). Happy to stick to that. Cheap tuna fillets are likely safe at a reputable place but not as good as salmon. Do not wish to increase risk by using other fish if they do not taste better.

A technique for rubbing the fish in sesame oil and seeds and flash frying it for 15 seconds produced a great result for today’s lunch served on rice with the usual flavourings. Simple. Delicious. Not very authentic though.

And I will point out that nuking in a microwave will not kill nematodes … I nuked a apiece of cod [hey, I got lazy one evening] and as it was sitting on my plate ready to be eaten a happy little nematode sort of slithered out of the slab from between a pair of flakes. Eep. [yes I know I would have reasonably happily eaten the cod if I had not seen the nematode, I probably would have figured the little wormy thing was a blood vessel if it had remained in place between the muscle flakes, but it was wriggling]

Cod should be cooked thoroughly and that will kill any wildlife it’s harboring. I don’t care what any experts say about this, if it’s Atlantic cod it may not be caught in the cleanest water and I won’t eat if it’s not done through. And these days I wouldn’t be positive about Pacific cod either although that’s usually caught in better places.

It’s easy to assume cod is done in the microwave because it looks flaky but it’s not likely been hot enough for long enough. Cod is great in the microwave if you’re not looking for that flaky form. Smear a plate with oil, spread cut pieces over the plate, top with your favorite bread crumbs and/or seasoning and/or cheese. Get some blanched spinach and do it Florentine style. Cook these things in the microwave uncovered for 6 minutes or more until very hot and steamy, you’ll be surprised at the result.

Some people think cod has too much moisture to make good sushi and fattier fish are preferred. I went to Japan and met a number of people who had been to Canada and remembered the delicious salmon. In Japan, salmon is often not on the sushi menus. Smoked salmon is preferred. It might be sold at grocers and non-traditional sushi places largely due to efforts by Norwegians to market farmed salmon to Japan. Wild salmon often has parasites since it is both salt and freshwater.

I like frog legs (cooked), but I always think back to college. I worked in a neurophysiology lab, but hung out a bit with some muscle physiology guys. They worked on frog gastrocnemius muscle. Although they purchased the “best” frogs, they had to toss half their preps because of parasite cysts in the muscle.

I eat sushi every chance I get. I’m able to totally block thoughts of parasites, somehow.