Sushi is Not RAW (What They Don’t Tell You)

Sushi is most often associated with raw fish and the like, but it does not necessarily have to be the case since a lot of sushi ingredients are actually cooked.

Is sushi actually raw? A lot of it is but a lot of it is also cooked, so if you are averse to eating raw fish with your sushi, you can go for the cooked versions. What’s more, not all of the uncooked ingredients are just fish since there are also vegetables and fruits. Then again, there are also the eggs, nuts, and nori that are practically intrinsic parts of sushi.

So, if you have ever wondered if your only option when eating sushi is to consume the icky, uncooked stuff, it certainly is not but that’s not the only problem with sushi.

Raw Sushi and Non-Raw Sushi

When you think sushi, it’s likely that the first thing you think about is raw fish but this is not necessarily the case. As a matter of fact, a great many varieties of sushi are made of all cooked ingredients. You can choose between those by simply asking which is which. However, it would be infinitely easier for you if you know how to identify such varieties.

On the matter of what forms ingredients can take when it comes to sushi, the most common are:

·         Raw

·         Smoked

·         Marinated

·         Grilled

·         Steamed

·         Preserved

As you can see there, you have way more options to choose from than just raw ingredients if you want to eat sushi. The specific items will be a bit tricky to identify at first glance, though, so let’s just go through some of the most common examples in the table below:

Raw fishThere are a ton of examples of raw fish used in sushi, with the most prominent being salmon, tuna, mackerel, and more
Raw sea urchinSea urchin or Uni, as it is called in Japan, is a pretty famous ingredient that is favored by many sushi purists due to its creamy texture and salty flavor
Raw shellfishClam, shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and oysters are less known ingredients of sushi but are still used quite often in authentic sushi establishments
Raw seafoodSea cucumber, octopus, squid, and other seafood are often prepared fresh and clean before serving as sushi toppings
Raw fish eggsFish eggs from a wide variety of fish roe are used for either topping or for covering the outer layer of sushi rolls
Raw vegetablesCucumber, carrots, lettuce, scallions, tomato, seaweed, and more are just some vegetables used for making sushi
Raw fruitsAvocado, mango, and more are used in sushi in their uncooked forms
Cooked fishFish is cooked in many ways in preparation for sushi, including grilling, steaming, stir-frying, and even deep-frying
Smoked fishSmoked fish is basically preserved but it’s often used as a cooking ingredient, which leads to soft and smooth flesh that comes with a distinct aroma and flavor
Preserved fishFish is preserved via oil or sauce, then bottled or canned for either direct use or for further cooking
Toasted seeds and nutsSesame seeds, peanuts, pine nuts, and more are toasted and used either as a filling or as a garnish or even as a side dish in sushi
Cooked eggsEgg rolls are often used as toppings for nigiri in sushi, as well as fillings
Grilled meatsChicken, pork, beef, seafood, and others are grilled
Cooked riceRice is cooked, fluffed, cooled, and then flavored for use in sushi
Pickled vegetablesGinger, cucumber, and other vegetables can be pickled and either used for toppings or for fillings of sushi

There might be some ingredients that are not included there, but those are rarely enough served that you don’t really need to worry about them right now. What you really need to focus on are those that that already noted in the table above so that you will be better prepared when you order sushi or when you make it.

Raw Items – Yes, there are raw items that you will be able to eat when you are making or ordering sushi. A lot of them, actually. You can find fish, shellfish, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and even some beef, as well as chicken.

Now, it needs to be said here that eating raw chicken is never, absolutely NEVER a good idea. You are dealing with something that is so full of salmonella and other harmful organisms when not cooked. However, some places in Japan grow their chickens in such a controlled and hygienic manner that they can actually be eaten raw.

Again, it needs to be repeated that chicken should not be eaten raw. However, it can be done if you are getting the meat from the right source.

Coming back to the things that you can eat raw safely, though, you can eat a wide variety of fish, a handful of land animals, and naturally, vegetables and fruits. You can go through those at most sushi restaurants and you can find even more options when you go to real, authentic sushi bars in Japan. If you never tried going to a sushi bar in Japan before, it is quite the experience.

Cooked Items – Most of the raw sushi ingredients that you can use for the dish can be cooked, as well, but you need to be very selective as to how you are going to approach it. These include the meats and fish, which can be fried, grilled, steamed, simmered, and more. Naturally, you also have your rice, which is the central ingredient in sushi and which is cooked, by default.

You can also think about the matter of some fish that are actually torched while on the rice using a kitchen blow torch. The same goes for some thin slices of pork, beef, seafood, and many others. This is not exactly cooking, but it is something that involves the use of heat in order to add more flavor to the ingredients that you will use.

Cooked sushi ingredients are less well-known than raw ones simply due to pure marketing. After all, this particular Japanese dish is famed for its freshness and is reputed to be such an item. If you are going to eat anything in the country at all, this would be at the top of the list if you are not really into the strong flavors of ramen. Even so, it is a fact that they exist and you can choose to order them.

Smoked Items – You might think that smoking is the same as cooking but this is just not the case. For thousands of years, smoking is considered to be more about preserving food than anything else. It does so by not only removing moisture from the food but also imparting some protective layers and substances.

However, it is still a fact that the things that you smoke do end up becoming edible even if they are not directly exposed to heat. This is why you will be able to eat smoked fish even if you don’t cook it and you will be able to enjoy it directly from the smokehouse. Just think about how beef is always smoked in places like Texas and you can easily see how the idea is the same.

The great thing about smoked sushi items is how much flavor is imparted by the wood, fire, and fumes. You end up with deeper and more complex tastes, aromas, and even texture. Among the most common items to smoke with sushi are eel, salmon, and even thin slices of pork. Some vegetables like eggplant can be smoked, as well, which really expands your options.

Preserved Items – Finally, we have preserved items, which can refer to pretty much anything. If you have ever tried pickled poultry or pork knuckles, you will know that nothing can be not pickled. This then means that there are no ingredients that you can’t preserve and so there are no ingredients that you can’t use for making sushi in this manner.

What you will most likely encounter, though, are preserved fish and vegetables since these are your most common options with regard to this matter. However, if you are making sushi at home, it helps to know that you will be able to use such things for your dish. At least then, you will be able to make sushi if you have a can of sardines, vinegar, sugar, and rice.

It should be noted, though, that preserved items are not the best ingredients to use for sushi for very obvious reasons. The flavors are not as impactful and you better believe that your experience is not going to be as satisfying. There is also the question of nutrients, with preserved items not being as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.

Is Raw Sushi Safe?

You might think that raw sushi might be a bit risky to eat because most people in the world don’t eat fish raw, but it is actually quite safe. Of course, this is provided you actually get the fish in the right condition and in the right level of freshness. This is basically where you have to make sure that you are getting your ingredients from the right sources.

Fish is best when it just got plucked from the source of water and the moment that it is reeled in or caught in the net, the countdown to its spoilage begins. If the fish is not stored properly, you will have about a day before the fish can no longer be used for sushi. This is because of how the flesh will begin to degrade and the chemical changes reach a breaking point.

If you still proceed to eat it even though it is already in that condition, you will have quite an unpleasant time. First, the spoiled fish will cause your mouth, lips, gums, tongue, and throat to begin itching. You will know how spoiled the fish has become based on how itchy your oral system becomes and that’s just the start.

You also risk getting food poisoning if you eat raw fish in its spoiled state and there is a fair chance that any parasite that has been sleeping inside the fish will mature. You will then have worms or other forms of parasitic infections inside your body. In point of fact, this can still happen even if you don’t necessarily eat spoiled fish but just infected fish.

What Raw Ingredients are in Sushi?

We have already touched on the raw ingredients that are often used in sushi in the earlier parts of this piece. However, let’s go through them again just to give you a better idea of what you can expect. We can start with the fish, which is pretty much universally recognized as the main feature of sushi, even though it is actually the rice.

Coming back to the main point, most of the edible fish that you can get from both fresh and seawater can be consumed raw. This has been a practice in many Asian and arctic regions where fresh fish is much more abundant and is also considered to be a staple food. Just think of the many versions of sashimi can be found all over these regions.

Moving past that, though, you should also already know that there are many other examples of raw ingredients that go with sushi. These are the fruits and the vegetables, the fish eggs, the various seafood and shellfish that are available in the market.

The viability of these ingredients for consumption is largely affected by your ability to actually tolerate them. If you are able to stomach the raw flesh of sea urchin, for example, you should be able to enjoy sushi uni. The same goes for abalone, scallops, and many more. A lot of them will be an acquired taste, but once you get used to them, you might even become addicted.

Related Questions

How Can You Tell if Sushi Has Gone Bad?

You can easily tell if your sushi has already gone bad when it looks dried out and darkens in color, when it begins to smell of ammonia, and when it starts to develop a slimy surface. If you notice any of those signs on the sushi, it is best not to test it with your mouth because of severe consequences.

Is California Roll Sushi?

Technically, anything that is used to top or is combined with rice that is flavored with vinegar can be considered sushi. However, if we are not constrained by technicality but by preconceptions, the California roll can still be considered sushi for all intents and purposes.

What Cooked Ingredients are in Sushi?

There are a lot of examples of cooked ingredients that can be used in sushi. As a matter of fact, as long as it is served as toppings on the rice or as long as it is in a roll, you can treat it as a sushi dish. The only question now is which cooked ingredients are actually suitable for sushi and which are not. You might not be surprised to know that the answer would depend on a few things.

First is with regard to tradition, which would refer to the kinds of items that you would find in Japan. Most of the cooked ingredients used for sushi would then be from the ocean such as fish, seafood, and shellfish. There are examples of cooked vegetables, as well, and of course, fried eggs are among the most popular of these ingredients.

It wasn’t until fairly recently that pork, beef, and chicken began to find their way into the sushi world as cooked items to be served. Since then, the possibilities of what can be used when serving sushi have pretty much become endless.

Why Eat Raw Sushi?

Now, you might be wondering why you would eat sushi raw, in the first place. Wouldn’t it be quite dangerous for you to consume flesh that is uncooked such as from fish or seafood? To start with, there are some very unique, tasty, and even refreshing flavors that you can only really appreciate when you eat certain food items raw.

Naturally, they do come with a certain level of risk, but so does pretty much any kind of food preparation. For example, if you cooked spoiled meat, you are still going to be sick from it no matter how long you expose it to heat. The same principle applies to raw fish and other ingredients like it in that you just need to eat them fast enough.

For instance, did you know that you can literally take a piece of tuna that was just brought in by fishermen to taste it for freshness and quality? This is literally how they find out that a yellowfin or bluefin is of high grade. If you catch salmon right out of a river, you can slice a piece of its flesh while it is still alive and eat it right there.

However, you should try to avoid doing that. There is no need to display unnecessary cruelty for the sake of freshness.

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