What Fish Can't Be Sushi, And Why?

I think I answered half my question by virtue of a previous thread that posited freshwater fish didn’t work so well because of parasite concerns.

But . . . there seem to be plenty of popular saltwater fish that I’ve never seen served as sushi/sashimi: swordish; monkfish; turbot; Chilean sea bass. Why not?

Is it simply traditionalism that keeps the stuff the sushi chefs will serve to a (comparatively) limited set of sea-creatures, or are there aesthetic/health/other reasons that sole, say, is deemed to be tasty cooked, but not an option raw?

If such rationales exist – how were the “rules”/lists formulated (trial and error being the most obvious infrerence), and are they codified anywhere?

I would assume that certain fish have an undesirable texture (swordfish) or too oily a flavor to be served as sushi. I’ll check into this and post later. Parasites may also have something to do with it.

I think sushi simply refers to the bed of sticky rice the food is served on. So, technically, a hamburger could be sushi if it were served on the correct rice.

The word I think you want is sashimi, which actually refers to raw fish. I think.

Anyway, toxicity isn’t an absolute deterrent: Some people (apparently the same contingent who enjoy `extreme’ sports) eat fugu, a fish with a natural toxin potent enough to kill a human. If prepared improperly, fugu kills.

I don’t think that fattiness is anything to do with why fish isn’t served on sushi. Here in Japan they eat the fatty parts of tuna and the underbelly is almost all fat (ew…) They are the most expensive bits. Also salmon is very fatty and is served too.

Are you asking about what is served in sushi restaurants in Japan, or America or Europe? It might have a lot to do with the regional tastes.

Where I am in rural Japan, if it flips its fins, it’s eaten! (Or even if it doesn’t. I have eaten raw seaslug and jellyfish before now… Not to mention live prawns, wiggle, wiggle.)

Because the sushi restaurants you’ve been to had limited selections. Naturally, most mainstream sushi restaurants stock only the popular (standard) fish. But if you travel around Japan, I think you’ll eventually find all of those fish served as sushi. (With the exception of those that aren’t found in the seas around Japan, and therefore nobody has the tradition of turning it into sushi.)

I tend to eat a lot of sushi/sashimi- okay, as much as I can afford. :slight_smile:

I can’t think of a single freshwater example, though. I’m sure there’s got to be, however- can anyone name a few?

As mentioned in the OP, the Japanese avoid fresh water fish because of parasites. A Japanese told me the same thing, so true or not it is what they believe. I have had both blowfish and horsemeat sashimi while in Japan, so I doubt they would stop at say, swordfish.

I would say the fish sure has to be fresh & that means that they have to get it quickly & not all types of fish are available everywhere.
If I want a specific fish I can ask the chef a few days beforehand for it so he can get it. No fugu here.

“Poison. Poison. Poison. Poison. Tasty fish!”

According to my Japanese friend, sushi is a rice dish with bits of fish (cooked or uncooked) in it. Sashimi is raw fish and he mentioned fugu. He said that you couldn’t run fast enough to give him fugu sashimi.

From the book, Sushi Made Easy

Sushi refers to the fish.

Sushi Nigiri refers to fish served on rice

A useful reference page.

You’re right that I technically meant “sashimi” or “the fish part of sushi nigiri or maki or chirashi” – I figured most JP-types and gaijin would figure it out from the context . . .

My limited experience of JP sushi joints is – (a) there are some things different (a little more emphasis on small oily sardine-like things), and oddball stuff like whale blubber; (b) a lot of the other things (at least in Tokyo) mirrored Western favorites (with some differences – salmon is lower on the list than it would be in the U.S.); © when they want something non-native, they can certainly get it by jet – I saw Atlantic salmon available; and (d) there were a few “common” cooked-eating fish that I saw there as sushi for the first time – e.g., arctic char – but some others still didn’t turn up.

Didn’t try fugu (I gather you have to go to special restaurants) – but our JP hosts (gourmands all) were not too encouraging; though the price has dropped, it’s typically served super-thinly-sliced, they said, and the taste is not really all that remarkable. It’s still good for a couple of breathless Maxim articles each year about Deadliest Dinner or whatever. I saw an American guy going to eat fugu on some sensationalist “taboo foods” show last night – after all the buildup about the deadly hazards and delicious taste, his reaction to the actual fish was sort of lackluster – he made the obligatory oohs and ahhs, but it seemed pretty clear the flavor was not so outstanding as he’d been led to believe.

But . . . fluke is pretty soft and mushy (and good) and popular. So is white tuna/white salmon.

Blowfish is indeed fugu, but what I had was not the kind served in a classic fugu restaurant that has been anointed with poison. I think the liver is the poisonous part and the meat is fine.

I don’t know if it is the same species, but many years ago–probably around 50–my father and brother and I went fishing in a rowboat off Long Beach Island (NJ) and what was running that day was called blowfish and it was described as poisonous. But the pier where we rented the boat had a cleaning station and had stuck two nails into the top of the sink and they explained that if we pulled the fish between the two nails, two filets would come off outside the nails and the flesh was perfectly healthy. Well, I at least, am still alive to tell the tail.

Apparently you get a buzz from a little bit of the poison. About 100 Japanese a year die from a little bit more. But the meat without the poison is perfectly safe (although rather insipid).

The show I saw yesterday said that (a) several thousand Japanese have died since the War (most of them from salvaging fugu scraps from trash while starving after the War); (b) no more than 2-3 people die per year now; © about 40% of the meat, including glands, liver, lungs, have toxin and are discarded in cleaning. I don’t think there was ever a practice of “anointing” fish with poison; it’s either in there, or not.

A number of fish, including various puffer/blowfish types, some caught off U.S. shores, have toxins. Some fish also acquire toxins in flesh from what they eat – (e.g., ciguetera poisoning, from fish feeding on toxic substances on coral reefs).

Yeah, I get all my sources from geocities sites. :wink:

Admittedly, the book is called Sushi Made Easy so it’s not exactly The Joy of Sushi. Tuna and salmon are definitely firm fleshed enough for sushi, even if the coloring is white. Don’t know about fluke, but I’d guess that their statement is accurate in general, exceptions are always possible.

Fugu is a perfect manifestation of Japanese culture. It epitomizes the old Asiatic paradox, “less is more.”

In Japan, what is subtle is viewed as refined. That which is difficult to discern is prized. The stark, yet highly organized chaji (tea ceremony) is a sterling example of this mindset. Fugu’s incredibly delicate flavor is viewed as a challenge to the senses in order to detect and appreciate it.

Yeah. When I was still ocean fishing and someone pulled in a sculpin (I think is was sculpin) one of the boat hands would yell, “Don’t touch that!” He would then come over and cut the fins off. I think the fins were coated with a somewhat toxic stuff. As are the “horns” of the channel catfish.

From Britannica “Many catfishes possess spines in front of the dorsal and pectoral fins. These spines may be associated with venom glands and can cause painful injuries to the unsuspecting.”