The 7 Real Differences Between Sashimi and Sushi

While many might think that sashimi and sushi are the same things on account of both using raw meat, this is not necessarily the case.

What are the differences between Sashimi and Sushi? The main one is the fact that sushi uses rice while sashimi does not, by default. There is also the matter of the composition, how they are served, the taste and flavor, the nutritional value, and even the price. Not to mentioned sushi is more versatile.

Ignorance on this matter isn’t really that serious unless you start insisting that they are both the same, so it would simply be better for you to know the truth so that you can rest easy.

Main Difference Between Sushi and Sashimi

A huge reason why a lot of people believe that sushi and sashimi are the same is because of the fact that both use raw fish as a major ingredient. However, this is like saying that burgers and steaks are the same because they both use beef.

Then again, it can’t be denied that there are certainly similarities to these two dishes. More specifically, they share such qualities as:

·         Using similar ingredients

·         Coming from generally the same regions

·         Being eaten with the same condiments

·         Both often consumed fresh

With that said, they are still not the same. There are quite a few key differences to these dishes that make them distinct from each other. The table below contains the seven that are the most noteworthy for people to keep in mind:

ShapeSliced rolls, molded balls or blocks, coneThinly sliced strips
CompositionRice, nori, fillings/toppings, wasabi, condimentsRaw fish
Serving MethodPlated, boxed, or per piecePlated/Whole fish
Taste & FlavorFull-spectrumLimited
Nutritional ValueHighLimited
PriceUp to $1,000 or more per plateUp to $4M per fish
VersatilityCooked, raw, fresh, preservedFresh only

Even now, there are still a lot of misunderstandings with regards to this discussion all over the world, except in Japan and China. When you search for the terms “sushi” and “sashimi” on the web, they are often used interchangeably. This gives you the impression that they are the same when this could not be further from the truth.

Shape – You will already know that sushi comes in all shapes and sizes. It can come as rolls called maki, balls or blocks with toppings called nigiri, and even cones called hand rolls. In contrast, sashimi only ever comes in sliced strips of the fresh fish. Some would argue that other fresh items like oyster and sea urchin are also sashimi, but this is debatable.

The point is that the shape of these two food items could not be more different. Aside from that, there are also colors that these two dishes can have. On the side of sushi, you have a highly colorful set where you can find all shades and palettes.

On a plate of sushi, it would not be strange to find a combination of black, white, red, green, pink, yellow, and orange. Compare that with sashimi and you can either only find pink, red, or peach, and they only ever come with one color, as well. This isn’t to say that the lack of diversity is a bad thing, though, since this uniformity can also be quite pleasant.

Composition – It is no exaggeration to say that sushi can be made up of anything for as long as the vinegar rice is there. You can mold it into any form, including any type of filling, and then eat it with any kind of condiment. While traditional versions can be rigid, the modern take is almost limitless in what it can be.

Even if we went with the authentic version, there is still a lot more going for sushi than sashimi. You get your rice, the dried seaweed wrap, the fillings like the raw fish, vegetables, and fruits, and the various condiments. You also often get mayonnaise and other types of spreads.

Sashimi, however, can only ever be made of raw fish and then served with soy sauce and wasabi. Perhaps pickled ginger will also be provided as a palate cleanser, but that’s about it. For those who like to have colorful food experience, it doesn’t exactly lend much in terms of satisfaction.

Serving Method – Now we’re getting to the interesting part and where sashimi might just be more fascinating than sushi. Starting with the dish that includes rice, it is usually served per plate, per box, or per piece. In most cases, you are provided sushi on a dish in two to twelve servings depending on what you ordered.

If you went with the more expensive options, they would usually come in a lacquered box, which contains the most special items on the menu. Finally, if you went to a sushi bar and sat on the counter, the sushi chefs can serve you each sushi as they are made.

As for sashimi, it is often served in plates, as well. When eating at restaurants or even at sushi bars, the strips of raw fish are provided to you via rectangular or elongated dishware. However, at special events, sashimi can be served as an entire fish.

A chef will stand on the other side of the table or counter where a huge, whole fish is displayed. In most cases, this fish is tuna, both yellowfin, and bluefin. Blue Marlin is often used, as well. Whatever the case may be, the chef will slice pieces off of the whole fish and serve them to customers as they come to line up. This is more of a spectacle than anything, but it does make for a special experience.

Taste & Flavor – The topic of the taste and flavor with regards to sushi and sashimi can be a bit tricky to discuss. On the one hand, you have a dish that can make your taste buds dance wildly with how varied the ingredients are. On the other hand, there is a dish that can almost give your tongue a massage due to how delicate and pleasant it is.

Different people have their own opinions as to which is better, and at the end of the day, it really only comes down to personal preference. Then again, it’s not as if you have to choose between one or the other. You can just as easily say that they both have merit.

Nutritional Value – As for the nutrients that you are going to get from sushi and sashimi, sushi will ultimate have more to offer simply because it has more ingredients. Both are certainly healthier and better for your body than deep-fried, highly-processed stuff, so you don’t lose whichever you choose.

Even so, sushi has plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein to offer thanks to the rice, the nori, the fillings, and more. On the other hand, sashimi can offer healthy fat and vitamins from the fish.

Price – Generally speaking, sushi will often be more expensive than sashimi because it comes with more ingredients, many of which are specially procured. This is why some restaurants offer sushi for nearly $2,000 per plate.

On the other hand, there was a Bluefin tuna that was purchased for $4 million at an auction. It is highly unlikely that it was being served whole since it is so valuable, but if you can imagine that this was the case, it would certainly be quite expensive.

Versatility – Finally, we come to how flexible the dishes are when comparing the differences between sushi and sashimi. There is no doubt that in this regard, sushi comes out ahead thanks to the fact that it can have multiple flavors at once, can be prepared fresh or cooked, and has no ingredient limits.

With sashimi, you are only dealing with raw food. This limits the depth of flavor that you can expect, but the gentleness of the item on your palate is worth pursuing, as well.

Is All Sashimi Raw?

With regards to the matter of the ingredients used in sashimi, then everything that it involves must be either raw or must have never undergone cooking. This includes the fish itself, the sides, the condiments, and the sauce. There will never be a case where sashimi is served after putting it through heat.

Knowing this, you might be asking yourself a lot of questions. Is sashimi safe to eat? Can you make sashimi yourself at home? Can you make the fish that you caught yourself into sashimi? These and more are among the usual concerns when it comes to discussing the matter of eating raw fish.

On the matter of safety, most restaurants adhere to strict health codes, so as long as the establishment you dine at has a good reputation, you’re good. If you plan on making sushi yourself, it might be best to purchase packaged fish meat since they are likely to have been inspected and are safer.

Speaking of which, making sashimi at home only requires the raw fish. For the complete experience, however, you should also have soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. If you can slice the sashimi thinly, this would enhance your appreciation since it improves the texture and flavor quite a bit.

As for fish that you have caught yourself, it might not be a good idea to turn it into sashimi, simply because you can’t really be sure if it contains parasites. Cooking it would make the fish safe to eat since heat will destroy those parasites and their eggs. Eating them raw, though, is just a bad idea.

How to Eat Sashimi VS Sushi?

Assuming you have never eaten either sashimi or sushi before, or at least, you are not that familiar with the etiquettes, there are a few differences that are worthy of note. To start with, sushi can be eaten either with the hands or with chopsticks, while sashimi can only be consumed with utensils.

This is due to the fact that using your hands can interfere with the flavor and texture of the sashimi, which would change the experience altogether. There might already be certain scents and substances on your skin that could impart new tastes to the raw fish and not for the better.

In comparison, using wooden chopsticks would not affect the flavor of the fish. You will also be able to dip the strips of meat in the soy sauce with less of a problem. Finally, you will look less unsightly when you do so.

Eating sushi also leaves at least some room for you to take your time, especially when eating at a restaurant where you are seated at a table as a group. This is due to the fact that the ingredients in the sushi are reinforcing each other with moisture, thus extending their longevity.

On the other hand, sashimi has a very narrow window before its freshness is affected by the ambient air and temperature. The raw fish will only have a few minutes before it starts losing its quality. If you wait too long, it might become too dry.

Related Questions

Will Eating Sashimi with Rice on the Side Make It Sushi?

No, it does not. It will just make it a sashimi meal with rice for the sides. In order for it to be considered sushi, the sashimi would have to be used as a topping or as a filler for the rice. More than that, the rice needs to be flavored with vinegar.

Can You Eat All Fish Raw?

Technically, yes you can, as long as you are careful with certain poisonous varieties. However, this is not advised with certain varieties simply because they are not pleasant to eat when raw. Either the texture is stringy or the flesh of the fish itself is bitter.

Fish You Can Use for Sashimi

Listing all of the fish that you can turn into sashimi would take too long simply because it applies to most of the fish and the marine life that exists. Depending on how liberal your definition of sushi is, it can even include shellfish and other types of seafood.

On that note, if you are going to eat at a restaurant, among the most likely items that you are going to find include:

·         Tuna

·         Salmon

·         Yellowtail

·         Snapper

·         Halibut

·         Flounder

·         Mackerel

·         Seabass

These are the types of fish that are served thanks to the fact that they often come with pleasant flavors, decent amounts of fat, and are also often soft and tender. This means then that if you are going to make your own sashimi, you might want to consider getting these types of fish.

Sashimi fish is chosen based on several factors, including firmness, smell, color, and freshness. You don’t want to end up with fish that doesn’t exactly deliver on those things since it would only result in a terrible experience.

You could end up eating fish with a bitter flavor, too oily, too smelly, or is even itchy. If you aren’t careful, you could even contract an upset stomach, which can be quite traumatic. Eating sashimi is too pleasant for you to let it ruin the dish with one bad experience.

If you are going to make your own sashimi, though, you might want to stick with the most accessible options like tuna. Not only is tuna more forgiving in terms of the level of skills required to work with it, but the flavor is also quite familiar.

You can get pre-packaged parts of the fish at supermarkets or specialty stores, with the belly being the perfect choice for making sushi. Just make sure to get the fish from a reputable source, though, since some stores can be a bit underhanded in how they treat fresh food items.

Once you get better at preparing sashimi, you can move up to more complicated items like the halibut. Don’t rush it since you are going to get there eventually.

Other Raw Things You Can Eat

Other than fish, there are plenty of other things that you can eat raw if you are so inclined. Some of these can still be considered sashimi if your flexible enough with your definition, but it doesn’t really matter either way.

As to why you would even want to eat raw things, the answer can include the flavor, the health benefits, and the sensations that accompany the experience. When done right, eating raw foods can make you feel cleaner and more refresh. To that end, you can take a look at the following for a list of food items that you can eat raw:

·         Squid

·         Clam

·         Oysters

·         Scallops

·         Abalone

·         Geoduck

·         Shrimp

Some of those might have seemed a little unorthodox since they are often served cooked, with the exception of the oysters and the shrimp, but every single item on that list can be eaten raw. On that note, this doesn’t mean that you can just get them straight from the market or the water and take a bit out of them.

You need to prepare them properly first and the first step is to clean them thoroughly. This applies to all of the food that is included in that list. You can find instructions on the web on how you can clean them, so that won’t be a problem.

Once they have been cleaned, you will then need to make sure that they are served properly. In the case of the squid, you will need to slice the body into thin rings, like calamari. You will need to remove the shell of the shrimp and devein, it as well.

Don’t forget to rinse all of those items with lemon juice, either. This will remove some of the smell and will add some tanginess to them. 

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