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How do I store and prepare sashimi at home?
March 11, 2014 10:19 PM   Subscribe

I know it won't be top notch, but I would like to prepare sashimi at home five nights a week with only one trip to the asian market per week. How can I safely prepare one batch of raw fish for a full week?

I know frozen is not ideal for taste, but all I'm worried about is the safety aspect (food poisoning, not mercury issues). How could i go about this? Wrapping the individual dinner portions in saran wrap and defrosting the morning of? What can I do to assure I won't get food poisoning at home while practicing the best method for taste?
posted by Jenna Roadman to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Buy the biggest block of sashimi grade fish you can and individually vacuum seal a daily portion.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:50 PM on March 11


If you want to do just one trip to the market a week, you will need to freeze the fish and thaw when needed.

I'm not even sure if you're going to be able to get fish fresh enough to do this with. If you are buying sushi-grade fish in an Asian market, it's very highly likely that the fish has already been frozen once, and you cannot refreeze fish, especially for raw consumption.

I live on the coast (Vancouver Island), and it is extremely difficult to get freshly caught fish for sashimi. Generally I have to go to the fishing port where a wholesaler and a couple of retailers sell fresh yellowfin tuna, on the Pacific Coast really the only fresh-caught fish suitable for sashimi.

I suppose salmon would do the trick, but a lot of the time the salmon you see in the display case will have been refrigerated for 24 hours and is therefore intended to be cooked.

Red snapper (rockfish, mebaru in Japanese) is not suitable for sashimi, even if freshly caught. Octopus is, but it is very difficult to find. Mackerel is not suitable for sashimi, neither are sardines.

If you can find freshly-caught Skipjack, that's best, but once again, it has to be freshly caught.

The sashimi sold in sushi restaurants in North America is, as a rule, prefrozen and flown in from Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, Spain, and Italy. The restaurants purchase it from a wholesaler, and it is thawed out before being served.

I'm in Japan for a few months, staying in a fishing town. We have "o-tsukuri" (another name for "sashimi") nearly every day, but the fish is caught locally in the morning, we buy it in the afternoon, and eat it in one sitting. We never eat raw fish the next day.

I dislike eating raw fish in the big cities including Tokyo and Kyoto. It doesn't taste fresh.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:09 PM on March 11 [24 favorites]


KokoRyu is right, sashimi-grade fish is almost always flash-frozen and thawed for market or restaurant service. Buy the fish frozen and use a clean hacksaw to separate it into servings you can thaw daily.
posted by gingerest at 3:21 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Certain fish for sashimi (salmon, tuna) are usually "aged" a bit so they aren't crunchy.

I also not so sure about storing raw fish in a refrigerator for five or six days either, however. It seems more like the best thing would be to find a place that would sell already blocked but not portioned sashimi grade fish that is still frozen. Especially the fattier cuts of fish are easy to cut while frozen, so you could portion some fish every morning and leave that in the refrigerator to thaw for the rest of the day while re-vacuum-packing the rest and returning it to the refrigerator. If you wanted to portion everything all in one go, I suppose you could portion the frozen fish and vacuum-seal it in separate packages. Then you could thaw in the refrigerator over the course of the day or even quickly to order by dropping a vacuum pack into a sink of room temp water.
posted by slkinsey at 5:42 AM on March 12


Do you live near a Whole Foods? Ours have started carrying still-frozen sashimi grade fish in a small freezer next to the seafood counter. The freezer is specifically for this sashimi and it has colorful marketing all over it-- not one of the standard Whole Foods freezer bins containing non-sashimi frozen items.

Last time I checked they had sweet shrimp, salmon and tuna. They are all in little packages that look like they are small serving sizes so you could buy several and thaw one or two packages every day for your meal while leaving the rest in your freezer.
posted by joan_holloway at 6:48 AM on March 12


Red snapper (rockfish, mebaru in Japanese) is not suitable for sashimi, even if freshly caught.

I'm kind of curious as to why every sushi restaurant I have ever been to in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax, and surrounding environs, has red snapper on the menu, then.

It seems more like the best thing would be to find a place that would sell already blocked but not portioned sashimi grade fish that is still frozen.

I can't think of anywhere this is likely to be a thing you can buy. Sushi restaurants, by and large, break down or at least shape their fish themselves. Even if they don't, they're almost certainly buying from a restaurant-level supplier who is completely uninterested in supplying the miniscule requirements of a home cook.

Especially the fattier cuts of fish are easy to cut while frozen

That's untrue. Much, much easier to cut when fresh. What you need is a knife so sharp you can shave with it. I can shave hair off my arm with my sashimi knives.

portion some fish every morning and leave that in the refrigerator to thaw for the rest of the day while re-vacuum-packing the rest and returning it to the refrigerator

re-vacuum sealing is practically begging for contamination. You don't do this for the same reason you don't re-freeze.

Jenna Roadman, first of all, you probably don't want to go to your local Asian market, you want to go to your local fishmonger who has a rapidly rotating stock of fish.

Second, you are not going to be able to buy a week's worth of sashimi and keep it in your fridge. Restaurants don't even keep fresh fish that's going to be cooked for that long. 3 days or so is usually the hard limit. The only restaurant I've worked at where we served sashimi (and poke, and a couple other dishes involving sushi-grade raw fish), we would only ever get just barely enough to last us two days at a time. Made ordering for my station a special kind of hell.

Your choices are either portion while frozen (this will take power tools or a long and annoying time with a hacksaw. Either way, your tools will need to be fully cleaned to the same standard as the rest of your kitchen), portioned while frozen by your fishmonger (they may or may not do this for you), or bought fresh every couple of days. Also, portioning while frozen will not give you the same precision and tidiness that slicing with a razor-sharp knife while unfrozen will give you.

I'm sorry, but unless you want to make a whole bunch of extra work for yourself, what you want is probably not possible. Bear in mind that twice- or thrice-weekly visits to the same fishmonger will quickly put you into regular customer status, with all the nice fringe benefits that tend to accrue.

Please note that vacuum sealing isn't a panacea against spoilage. Some nasty microbes are anaerobic; a vac-sealed environment is just perfect for them.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:49 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


I'm no expert on food safety but couldn't you research a basic gravlax preserving method (scroll down for recipe) to cure your fish in the fridge for a week? If you omit the dill, replace the lime with lime zest and clean off the salt/sugar/lime prior to eating the flavor of the fish will still be prominent

Here's an explanation of the chemical process from the aforementioned link:

Salt inhibits the growth of spoilage-causing microorganisms by drawing water out of microbial cells through osmosis. As the unwanted bacterial population decreases, other beneficial bacteria, primarily of the Lactobacillus genus, come to the fore and generate an acidic environment (around 4.5 pH). The sugar included in the cure is used as food by the lactobacilli; generally dextrose is preferred over sucrose, or table sugar, because it seems to be more thoroughly consumed by the bacteria. This process is in fact a form of fermentation, and, in addition to reducing further the ability of the spoilage bacteria to grow, accounts for the tangy flavor of some cured products. Concentrations of salt up to 20% are required to kill most species of unwanted bacteria
posted by any major dude at 9:14 AM on March 12


Red snapper (rockfish, mebaru in Japanese) is not suitable for sashimi, even if freshly caught.

I'm kind of curious as to why every sushi restaurant I have ever been to in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax, and surrounding environs, has red snapper on the menu, then.


Yes, I think Koku Ryu is mixing up some translations. I'm not sure about rockfish, but snapper (tai) and more specifically red snapper (ma dai) are far more than suitable for sushi or sashimi. I'm not Japanese or anything, but I've eaten and prepared myself raw red snapper many times.

It is possible to order flash frozen sashimi grade fish in the mail. I'd do that, hack it apart if you need to, and thaw chunks as needed. Sorry, I don't have any specific recommendations for sources.

Otherwise, I've seen asian markets with live red snapper. You can fill in your own procedure of either having some kind of domestic red snapper tank or devising a flash-freezing method. I'd just order online.
posted by cmoj at 9:34 AM on March 12


I'm kind of curious as to why every sushi restaurant I have ever been to in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax, and surrounding environs, has red snapper on the menu, then.

Sorry, all fish names are local, even in Japan. "Red snapper" on Canada's West Coast means "rockfish" or "mebaru."

The "red snapper" you are seeing in sushi restaurants is also called "sea bream," Pagrus major.

So no folks, I am not mixing up translations. Anyway, it should be interesting trying to find sushi-grade Pagrus major in Portland.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:59 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


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