Where Do Sushi Restaurants Get Their Fish – Sho Spaeth has worked in publishing and media for 16 years. Before joining Serious Eats, he worked for the New York Times for ten years. Sho has written for Time Magazine, The New York Times, Baffler Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, among other publications.
Few dishes rival a sliver of raw, fresh and well-decorated fish, whether on top of sushi rice or swimming in a bath of spicy orange. And yet, despite the popularity of simple dishes like sushi, sashimi, crudo, poke, and tartares on restaurant menus, for many cooks, making raw fish at home is a difficult task.
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In part, this stems from uncertainty about the dangers of eating raw fish. Most people will happily put their faith in a no-name sushi chef at a random restaurant, yet shy away from the potential dangers of homemade ceviche. Diners who are comfortable chopping raw beef for tartare may think twice about doing the same for striped bass.
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And then there is the availability question. Most Americans struggle to find fresh seafood, and even those with access to good seafood markets lack confidence in their ability to measure the freshness of fish, both whole and filleted. This can significantly reduce their reliance on eating fish, let alone raw.
Finally, some widespread and misleading terminology adds to the confusion. Some fish products will have some seafood featured, including some pieces of tuna and salmon that are labeled “sushi-” or “sashimi-grade”. A
The market may also advertise sushi or sashimi grade hamachi fish and pike. But, as anyone who has eaten a lot of sushi knows, there are plenty of other fish in the sea. While indicating that these fish are safe to eat raw, the labels also suggest—wrongly—that others are not.
I spoke to a few experts to help define what “sushi-” and “sashimi-grade” mean, and to outline the best technique for preparing fish at home for raw consumption.
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Note: The information in this guide applies to finfish and flatfish only. Raw shellfish, including crustaceans (such as shrimp and lobster) and molluscs (oysters and clams), are the subject of their own opinion, which is unfortunately beyond the scope of this article.
If you know what to look for in all fresh seafood (freshwater fish are susceptible to spoilage and are probably best avoided), as well as how to add them, then your raw fish decision comes down to another. other than home-grown salmon and tuna. down to your individual comfort level with risk. To be 100% sure to avoid parasites, you will need to stick to farmed fish and salmon. But if you want to accept a small risk of infection – a risk that is still present in any fish that is not very good – then all you have to do is keep your fish cold and clean your preparation area and equipment, and himself. ‘It’s good to go.
Officially, the terms “sashimi-grade” and “sushi-grade” mean nothing at all. Yuji Haraguchi, owner of Brooklyn’s Osakana, a fish shop specializing in sashimi, remembers using them for marketing purposes when he worked as a sales representative for seafood wholesale distributor Real World Foods. Back in 2004, the company wanted to expand its customer base beyond Japanese restaurants, and Haraguchi’s mission was to convince other restaurants to serve raw fish instead of tuna to their customers. “The term ‘sushi-grade fish’ is very effective in terms of making sales, but at the same time, I have to provide the right product and the right information,” he said. Davis Herron, director of retail and restaurant at The Lobster Place fish market in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market, agrees: “It’s a very light marketing issue [to] be able to eat raw fish.”
Fitting sushi and sashimi for this reason makes sense, since many Americans eat raw fish first in Japanese restaurants. The “grade” part is completely misleading. There is no national regulatory body that measures fish in the same way that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) measures beef. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues advisory guidelines that outline procedures for handling many fish intended for raw consumption, these guidelines are not intended to determine the quality of the fish the way marbling determines the quality of beef. only. its relative safety for raw consumption. Therefore, when you see a fish that is called sushi- or sashimi-grade, this means that the seller has considered it safe to eat. The question is only as reliable as the fish product you make.
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Regulations regarding fish sold for raw consumption vary from state to state, although all states refer to FDA guidelines as the gold standard; The main difference between states is whether those guidelines are enforced. Haraguchi and Herron note that the New York City Department of Health (which regulates restaurants in NYC) and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (which regulates fish products statewide) have adopted FDA regulations. in principle. Although these recommendations are primarily aimed at limiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria (more on that below), they include strict specifications for killing parasites.
Herron describes those specifics this way: “Any wild fish other than tuna – bigeye, yellowfin, bluefin, bonito/skipjack – those wild fish must be frozen for specific times at specific temperatures to thaw. the parasites away.” Exact temperatures and times can be found on the FDA website, but suffice it to say that those temperatures, which reach as low as -31 °F, are well below what a home freezer can produce and maintain. you have confidence, and why not. . t is advisable to try this at home. Sushi restaurants and fish markets use something called a “freezer-freezer”, which is exactly what it sounds like: a freezer that maintains super-cold temperatures. (Osakana’s large freezer, for example, maintains a temperature of -60 °F.)
This FDA table details the species-specific risks of live parasites in fish. But the information here is somewhat misleading, and is meant to be used more as a warning center about the dangers of improper fish than as a practical guide to which fish must be frozen before use. Excluded from the FDA’s freezing requirements, as Herron points out, is a large portion of tuna—which is considered unsafe based on how often they’re eaten raw and how often they’re associated with parasitic infection. documented — as well as aquacultured fish, such as salmon. , when it is ensured that the feed material on which it is free from parasites. To comply with FDA guidelines, all other types of fish must be frozen to those temperatures, even if the table does not show that it has a parasite risk, because “the parasite risk is unknown if these fish are not eaten accurate. .is raw or undercooked.
It is a paradox: the FDA will not consider fish with parasitic risks, therefore safe to eat raw without freezing, unless that fish is raw, without freezing, often enough to provide sufficient evidence on its safety. For Luke Davin, Osakana’s general manager, this standard means “going from [the FDA’s] ‘hold everything’ approach to testing and introducing the processor.” He said most, if not all, fish markets do not have the resources to fully test the fish they receive for parasite risks. The easiest solution, therefore, is to freeze everything.
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Despite the FDA’s general recommendations for the elimination of parasites, which is the primary goal of its freezing guidelines, some infections from eating raw fish have been documented in the American medical literature. In the United States, eating unwrapped dried fish is so rare that the company’s “Bug Book” uses Japan as a reference point, because the practice is widespread there. But even in Japan, where it is not necessary to freeze the fish in demand for sashimi, the reported infection rates are very low compared to the general population. (For example, The Bug Book reports “more than 1,000 cases” of anisakis worm infection, the most common parasite in seafood, reported annually in Japan, but remember that’s out of a total population of ~127 million in 2015. )
As some infections are asymptomatic, and many are thought to be unreported, the risk of infection may be greater than statistics suggest. On a less scientific level, insects – especially parasitic insects – occupy the dark recesses of our collective imagination. The idea that the risk of foreign organisms harming anyone – including health authorities equipped with relevant, alarming data – is enough to give the heebie jeebies.
Haraguchi and Herron point out that in some cultures, they have been preparing dried fish for a long time even though they will not be frozen at all, and that the idea of eating fish under those conditions is not repulsive either. raw material). Use is refrigerated according to FDA guidelines). About parasites, Haraguchi said, “It’s natural. Parasites are natural like seeing a ladybug in a vegetable market.” When I said
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