Is Sushi Raw Fish? Not always, read about these different types

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  May 28, 2020

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Although Sushi is not initiated from Japan, it is a traditional and the most liked Japanese dish prepared using steamed rice, vinegar, sugar, salt, seafood, vegetables and sometimes tropical food.

The vinegared rice and seaweed are wrapped around other vegetables and seafood ingredients.

It has historic importance since it dates back hundreds of years. Today, this dish is available in multiple flavors and shapes.

Is sushi raw fish

Because of its special preparation techniques, this method is mastered only by native Japanese and expert cooks.

Also, the ingredients play a key role in the making, therefore, a perfect ensemble of everything is required for a delicious Japanese taste.

The question that a lot of you have, especially if you’re new to Japanese food is:

Is sushi raw fish?

When you refer to the raw fish you can get at sushi restaurants, you often mean “sashimi“. Although a lot of the sushi types have raw fish in them, sushi could also be vegetables or even meat. Sashimi is raw slices of fish.

Sashimi is a Japanese term that translates to “pierced body”. Sashimi is a bite-sized sliced fish or meat that is used in sushi as well as several other dishes.

Can sashimi be meat?

Sashimi refers to the way fish or meat is cut in thin slices. Although sashimi in America almost always is fish, it can be meat as well. It is always raw and is consumed with sauces such as soy sauce, wasabi, etc.

Horse meat sashimi

Commonly, Sashimi includes salmon or tuna but other seafood is also eaten in a raw form and does not involve any complex processing.

Sashimi seafood includes:

Although it is not conventional to name pieces of fruit and vegetables as Sashimi, Japanese enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, served with sauces, which they also consider Sashimi.

The thin slices of fruit even resemble the skin of fish. The vegetable and fruity sashimi include:

Sashimi slices are taken as a side dish. However, together with Sushi, Miso soup and rice, they are enjoyed as a full course dish.

What are Sashimi Slices?

Sashimi pieces are sliced in a specific manner. To make them bite-sized, they are neither cut too thin nor too big.

The fish meat is divided into pieces in a direction that is across the spine and
against the grain.

In this way, the chef can make sure the sashimi is not lanky. This technique is only
possible using a sharp knife.

I have a full article on sushi knives here if you’d like to learn more about the types of sharp knives sushi chefs like to use.

There even is a review of some you can get yourself if you’d like to get started in Japanese cuisine.

Types of sushi

Sushi is available in many types because it is originated from multiple places.

Although the basic ingredient of sushi i.e. vinegared rice is the same in all the sushi, it differs because of toppings, inner filling, sauces, condiments, etc.

A few general types of sushi are:

Chirashizushi

It is also referred to as “Barazushi”, is the simplest form of sushi. It is very convenient and easy to make because it includes no preparation of sushi rolls.

Generally, raw or cooked fish, seafood, vegetables, and other ingredients are served in a bowl full of rice.

It is famous because of the ease and aesthetic arrangement of toppings on top of the rice.

Makizushi

It is the cylindrical shaped sushi usually seen in the pictures and videos. It comprises of sushi rice wrapped in seaweed, soy paper, or thin omelet layer.

The chopped tuna or whitefish flakes act as the topping for this sushi.

Inarizushi

It is referenced after the Inari god of Japan. It includes fried tofu in a thin layer of omelet with sharp and crispy edges. The fillet contains special sushi rice.

It is often confused with Irani Maki which is the sushi roll. Variations and different styles of Inarizushi can be seen commonly in Japan since it is a regional delight.

Oshizushi

It is the special delight of Osaka, having the look of a cake or a pastry. It only contains cooked or processed meat.

These are the small bite-sized cubes made by a Japanese pressing tool.

The special rice and other ingredients are added in the pot and are pressed with the tool until the flat block shape is achieved.

The whole thing is then sliced into small pieces.

Nigirizushi

It is elliptical shaped sushi made by pressing the rice in the palm. The topping is then attached to the oval-shaped rice by seaweed, nori or by gentle pressing.

Typically, the topping is seafood such as octopus, squid, or freshwater eel. The special sauce for this one is wasabi.

Modern Narezushi

It is the fermented sushi in which the fish is stuffed with salt to preserve for later use. Usually, the salted fish takes six months to dry. After this period, these salted bites are served.

You should read my in-depth article on the different types of sushi here, where I describe these and a lot more types of sushi and explain all the differences between them.

I also talk about modern American sushi in that article so you can see the differences with how sushi is served in Japan.

What is the difference between Sushi and Sashimi?

Many people often mistake sushi for sashimi but they are actually totally different.

The main differences are:

Read more here on all of the differences involved in making sushi and sashimi and all of their health benefits.

Is there raw Fish in Sushi itself?

Sushi can contain a lot of different ingredients like meat, vegetables, and cooked fish, but raw fish is definitely the most popular. Just like any other ingredient, raw fish acts as the filling of Sushi. It may or may not be cooked but the rice should be cooked to hold the roll together.

Many ingredients serve as stuffing and toppings of Sushi. Japanese refer it to as “Neta”. It can be raw or cooked fish or any other meat depending upon an individual’s liking.

Is the Fish in sushi always raw?

Although Sushi is liked globally, a lot of misconceptions occur from time to time. The most common one is that only raw fish is used in sushi.

The truth is that both raw and cooked slices of fish can be used for sushi. Raw meat may be a part of the ingredient list of sushi but it is not mandatory.

It depends upon an individual the way he/she wants to enjoy it and what you might want to order at a restaurant.

Is there any Sushi without Raw Fish?

It’s sometimes very difficult for beginners to handle raw fish sushi; both taste-wise and cooking wise. So some of you may dread a trip to a local Japanese restaurant.

So it is always recommended to start with sushi without any raw fish. There are tons of other types of sushi containing no slices of raw fish or sashimi.

A few other flavors of sushi which contains no raw fish are:

Sushi with raw Salmon

The most popular fish used in sushi is salmon. It is available in all of the restaurants and sushi food stalls.

The raw pieces of salmon are filled into the moist vinegared rice and enjoyed with
soy or wasabi sauce.

One important thing is the freshness and the skin layer of the salmon. It should be frozen before use to have an absolutely fresh taste, or you should eat it fresh off the boat in a harbor town.

Similarly, the way it is prepared is essential, and the slices should be cut perfectly against the grain.

Sushi with raw Shrimp

Sushi with raw shrimp has its special name called “Amaebi”. They have a sweet taste and should only be eaten uncooked to get this delicious flavor.

They are very small in size so restaurants usually serve two or more in a single serving.

Japanese usually prefer it only in a special season when female shrimps bear eggs. These eggs add to the taste so it is best enjoyed in this season if you want to get the real experience.

Just like raw salmon, it should only be eaten when it is fresh. Edible shrimps are checked according to their color and shape. Pink colored shrimp with the curly body are considered safe.

Also, the black mark on the head is also examined. If it is big, the shrimp is stale and best thrown away.

Sushi with raw Tuna

Tuna holds a traditional value in Japanese sushi. It is historically the most preferred sushi which is available in several types.

It’s also very expensive and it takes a superior place in the Japanese menu.

Since it has different types with special titles, it covers vast variations of sushi flavors such as:

Tuna fish meat is further divided into two parts based on the content of fat which are:

  1. Akami: This is the part of the meat with less fat content. It is mostly used for making sushi rolls.
  2. Toro: This is the fatty part of the tuna meat. This fat content is very rare so Toro Tuna Sushi is the most expensive one.

What is the Nutritional Content of Sushi?

Since there are so many categories and numerous ingredients of Sushi, it is not possible to describe them as a whole. However, the ingredients can be quantified separately.

And if you want to know more about the nutrition of different types of sushi, I have written about sushi calories for popular rolls here.

The nutritional content of different sushi roles is given below:

What is the nutritional content of Sashimi?

One piece of Sashimi contains around 35 calories. That is raw fish sashimi.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.