Sashimi Cuts: Top 3 + Other Less Know Forms
The art of sushi and sashimi making requires the fish to be cut into small pieces that are easy to eat but also aesthetically pleasing when plated.
The three most common sashimi cuts are the hira zukuri, ito zukuri, and kaku zukuri. Each has a distinct shape, with the hira-zukuri being rectangular, usu-zukuri being thin and long and kaku-zukuri being square.
Sashimi cuts are crucial in determining the flavor and texture of the fish. There are many other sashimi cuts to explore, each with its unique taste and presentation.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the most common sashimi cuts and how to identify them.
Additionally, I’ll cover the various types of sashimi and provide tips on creating the perfect sashimi platter.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Types of sashimi cuts
- 2 Preparing your Salmon for sashimi slicing
- 3 Unraveling the art of squid sashimi cuts
- 4 What types of knives are used for sashimi cuts?
- 5 What’s the origin of the sashimi cut?
- 6 Takeaway
Types of sashimi cuts
There are three main types of sashimi cuts in Japan.
Here’s a brief overview of each, then I’ll get into the details down below, plus share some less common sashimi cuts you can try.
- Hira-zukuri: This is a flat, rectangular cut of sashimi that is sliced against the grain of the fish, resulting in a smooth texture. Each piece is about 1 cm wide.
- Usu-zukuri: This is a thin, delicate cut of sashimi that is sliced very thinly and arranged in a circular pattern on the plate.
- Kaku-zukuri: This is a square, chunky cut of sashimi that is sliced with the grain of the fish, resulting in a firmer texture.
Sushi is usually sliced with a special sushi knife called a yanigaba bocho
Hira-zukuri: rectangular slices
Also known as “hira-zukuri” in Japanese, the rectangular cut is the most recognizable and common sashimi cut, and the one most sushi chefs will use.
Hira-zukuri is a sashimi cut that involves slicing the fish against the grain into thin, rectangular pieces.
Did you know the ideal width for sashimi fish is about 7-8 cm or 3 inches? Then, it’s sliced into much smaller pieces about 1 cm wide.
The cut is named after its flat, rectangular shape, which resembles a plank or board.
The fish is sliced into thin, rectangular strips, making it easy to pick up with chopsticks.
Hira-zukuri is typically used for firm, white-fleshed fish like red snapper and yellowtail. The simplicity of this cut allows the fresh, ocean flavors of the fish to shine through.
But, this type of cut is also commonly used for fish with a tender texture, such as sea bream or flounder, as it produces a smooth and silky texture when eaten.
This cut is also commonly used to slice salmon pieces for sashimi, sushi, and poke bowls. The fish (usually salmon) pieces will end up being 1 cm wide or 0.4 inches.
Hira-zukuri sashimi is often served with wasabi, soy sauce, and other condiments on the side to enhance the flavor of the fish.
It’s said that the rectangular cut allows for a more restrained flavor, letting the natural taste of the fish shine through.
For this cut, you need to place your knife on the cutting board and grip your fish. A sharp sashimi knife like sujihiki or yanagiba should be used for optimal results.
Place the knife at the top part of the fillet and cut towards you with a single stroke.
The slices must be 1/2 an inch wide in a rectangular shape. Keep the blade at a slight angle outward.
Cut in a single motion, then using the tip of the blade, move the cut piece to the side of the cutting board.
Usu-zukuri: paper-thin strips
Usu-zukuri is a sashimi cut that involves slicing the fish into very thin, delicate pieces.
The term “usu” means thin or delicate, and “zukuri” means slice or cut.
Usu-zukuri slices are typically arranged in a circular pattern on a plate, creating an elegant and visually appealing presentation.
This type of cut is often used for fish with a delicate texture, such as sea bream or snapper, as it enhances the fish’s natural flavor and texture.
Usu-zukuri sashimi is usually served with soy sauce and wasabi on the side and sometimes garnished with shiso leaves or other herbs.
This technique requires that you find the fish fillet’s grain first. Then, you need to position your knife across the grain.
Using a slicing motion, start making smooth cuts in a diagonal way. The resulting fish slices should be paper-thin compared to the thicker hira-zukuri slices.
Kaku-zukuri: square pieces
Kaku-zukuri is a sashimi cut that involves slicing the fish into square or rectangular-shaped pieces with the grain.
For this type of cut, you make small 1/2 inch sticks or cubes.
Basically, you use smooth cutting motions to dice the fish fillet into uniform cubes.
The term “kaku” means square or cube, and “zukuri” means slice or cut.
This type of cut is typically used for fish with a firmer texture, such as tuna or yellowtail, as it produces a chunkier and more substantial texture.
Kaku-zukuri sashimi is often served with soy sauce and wasabi, and may also be garnished with grated daikon radish or green onions.
The presentation of kaku-zukuri is usually simple and elegant, with the fish arranged neatly on a plate.
Kaku-zukuri works well with delicate fish like maguro (tuna) and katsuo (bonito but it’s also used to cut salmon into squares for poke bowls.
Sogi-zukuri: triangle shape
For this slicing technique, the chef holds the knife at around 40° angle from the fish and pulls back.
So, Sogi-zukuri is a sashimi cut that involves slicing the fish at an angle, usually at a 40-degree angle to the skin, to create elongated, triangular-shaped pieces.
The term “sogi” means diagonal, and “zukuri” means slice or cut.
This type of cut is often used for fish with a delicate texture, such as sea bream or flounder, as it produces a unique texture and appearance that enhances the fish’s flavor.
Sogi-zukuri slices are typically arranged in a fan-like pattern on a plate, creating an attractive and visually appealing presentation.
The sashimi is often served with soy sauce, wasabi, and other condiments on the side.
White fish with firm meat, such sea bream (tai), lend themselves well to the sogi-zukuri cooking method.
Hoso-zukuri: stick-thin slices for delicate fish
The hoso-zukuri technique is used to fillet delicate fish like the Japanese needlefish (sayori) or squid, which has odd-textured meat.
Hoso-zukuri requires fish to be cut into very thin strips with the very tip of the knife.
Thin fish meat, such that of squid and Japanese needlefish, cannot be carved into hira-zukuri.
Hence this technique is employed instead because it doesn’t damage the texture of the flesh.
Tuna and bonito, both of which have very soft meat, are prepared using kaku-zukuri, in which the fish is sliced into sticks 1.5–2 cm in length and then diced.
If you are left-handed, you should hold the knife at a 45-degree angle from your right hand.
Ito-zukuri: Julienne cuts
Ito-zukuri is a sashimi cut that involves slicing the fish into very thin, almost translucent pieces. The thin julienned sliver is the most intricate and delicate of the sashimi cuts.
The term “ito” means thread or string, and “zukuri” means slice or cut.
This type of cut is often used for fish with a delicate texture, such as flounder or sea bream, as it produces an incredibly tender and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Ito-zukuri slices are typically arranged in a circular or flower-like pattern on a plate, creating an elegant and visually stunning presentation.
Typically used for squid and other tender seafood, this cut features very thin, long, and uniform slivers.
It’s said that the julienned slivers add a unique textural element to the sashimi, making each bite a delightful surprise. It kind of melts in the mouth and is easy to chew.
The sashimi is often served with soy sauce, wasabi, and other condiments on the side.
This type of cut requires great skill and precision and is considered a hallmark of a skilled sushi chef.
Tataki: almost sashimi
This cut is unique in that it involves briefly searing the outside of the fish before slicing it into thin, flat strips.
This creates a slightly cooked exterior while leaving the inside raw and tender.
So tataki is not really a unique cut, but it’s a bit larger than the usual sashimi cuts, and the tataki involves a bit of searing, so it’s technically not 100% sashimi.
Tataki is typically used for fatty fish like tuna or salmon, as the searing process enhances the rich flavors and textures of the fish.
The classic sauce to eat with tataki grilled fish is of course the deliciously citrusy ponzu sauce
Preparing your Salmon for sashimi slicing
In Japan, it’s not uncommon to leave that gray fatty part of the salmon, but in some parts of the world, that part is always removed.
But it really depends on the sushi chef and the restaurant.
Before you start cutting your salmon, make sure it’s fresh and properly stored.
Salmon for sashimi should be served as fresh as possible, so choose a product with a nice, rich color and a firm texture.
When you bring it home, cover it and store it in the coldest part of your refrigerator until you’re ready to prepare it.
To prevent any unwanted flavors or textures, you’ll need to remove the skin and any excess fat from the salmon.
Gently pat the salmon dry with a paper towel to remove any excess water, and then follow these steps for preparation:
- Lay the salmon on a clean cutting board, with the skin side down.
- Hold the tail end of the salmon with one hand, and with your knife at a slight angle, carefully slice between the skin and the flesh, working your way up the fillet.
- Trim away any excess fat and check for bones, removing them with tweezers if necessary.
- Once you end up with a fillet, place the salmon fillet on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to slice it into thin, even pieces. For sashimi, aim for slices that are about 1/4 inch thick.
- To ensure that the salmon slices have a smooth and consistent texture, it is important to slice the salmon against the grain. This means cutting perpendicular to the lines of muscle fibers in the fish.
- You can then customize the slices to adhere to a certain technique like hira-zukuri or usu-zukuri, etc.
Be sure to check out my delicious Japanese Salmon & Ume Onigiri Recipe (Pickled Plum)
Unraveling the art of squid sashimi cuts
I remember the first time I tried my hand at preparing squid sashimi, and let me tell you, it was quite the slippery affair!
But with a little practice, I’ve mastered the art of handling this delicate sea creature. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Start by cleaning the squid thoroughly, removing the head, tentacles, and innards.
- Peel off the thin, transparent skin to reveal the smooth, white flesh underneath.
- Lay the squid flat on a cutting board, with the inner side facing up.
Squid sashimi is a delicacy that requires skillful preparation to achieve the perfect texture and flavor.
Squid sashimi cuts
Here are the most common cuts of squid sashimi:
- Ika Somen: This is the thinnest and most delicate cut of squid sashimi, resembling fine noodles. The squid is sliced extremely thin and served with soy sauce and wasabi.
- Ika Geso: This is the cut of squid that includes the tentacles and is typically sliced into thin, bite-sized pieces. The texture is slightly chewy and flavorful, with a slightly sweet taste.
- Ika Kari-Mi: This is a unique cut of squid sashimi that involves scoring the squid in a cross-hatch pattern, resulting in a delicate and tender texture. The scoring allows for the marinade to penetrate the squid more effectively, resulting in a deeper flavor.
- Ika Sashimi: This is the most common cut of squid sashimi, which involves slicing the squid into thin, rectangular pieces. The texture is slightly chewy and firm, with a mild flavor that pairs well with soy sauce and wasabi.
When preparing squid sashimi, it is important to use fresh, high-quality squid and slice it with a sharp knife.
The squid should be cleaned thoroughly, removing the internal organs and outer skin.
Squid sashimi is typically served with soy sauce, wasabi, and other condiments to enhance the flavor.
If you want to go pro get yourself a quality takohiki knife specifically designed to cut octopus & squid
What types of knives are used for sashimi cuts?
There are several types of Japanese knives that are commonly used for sashimi cuts:
- Yanagiba: This is a long, thin knife with a single bevel blade, which is designed specifically for slicing raw fish into sashimi. The long blade allows for precise cuts, while the single bevel ensures a clean, smooth cut that enhances the texture of the fish.
- Deba: This is a heavy, thick-bladed knife that is used for filleting and preparing fish. It is commonly used in Japanese cuisine to remove the bones and head of the fish before slicing it into sashimi.
- Usuba: This is a thin, straight-edged knife that is used for cutting vegetables and herbs. While it is not specifically designed for sashimi, it can be used to prepare garnishes and condiments for sashimi dishes.
- Takohiki: This is a type of yanagiba knife that is designed specifically for slicing octopus into sashimi. The blade is thinner and more flexible than a regular yanagiba, which allows for precise cuts without damaging the delicate texture of the octopus.
- Sujihiki: This is a long, thin-bladed knife that is similar to a Western-style carving knife. It is designed for slicing large cuts of meat and fish into thin, even slices, making it ideal for preparing sashimi. The long blade allows for precise cuts, while the thin profile ensures minimal wastage of the fish or meat being sliced. Sujihiki knives are often used in Japanese cuisine for sashimi and other raw fish preparations.
When selecting a knife for sashimi preparation, it is important to choose a high-quality, sharp blade that is appropriate for the type of fish or seafood being prepared.
A well-maintained knife is essential for achieving the perfect cut and texture in sashimi dishes.
What’s the origin of the sashimi cut?
Alright, folks, let’s talk about the origin of sashimi cut.
Now, back in the day, during the Heian period in Japan (that’s from 794 to 1185, for those of you who don’t know), fish was typically preserved by burying it in the ground and covering it with rice straw.
This allowed the fish to be eaten raw, which is where sashimi comes in. The word sashimi actually means “pierced body,” because the fish is sliced thin and eaten raw with soy sauce.
Now, some people think that the word sashimi was coined during the Muromachi period (that’s from 1336 to 1573), but who really knows?
What we do know is that the traditional method of harvesting sashimi-grade fish involves catching the fish with an individual handline and then immediately spiking it in the brain with a sharp spike.
This process ensures instantaneous death and minimal lactic acid in the fish flesh, which means it stays fresh for longer.
The three main sashimi cuts – hira-zukuri, usu-zukuri, and kaku-zukuri – have been used in Japanese cuisine for many centuries.
It is difficult to determine the exact origins of these cuts, as they have likely evolved over time based on the preferences of individual chefs and regional variations in culinary traditions.
However, it is known that the techniques for preparing sashimi were refined during the Edo period in Japan (1603-1868) when the consumption of raw fish became more popular among the wealthy merchant class.
During this time, skilled sushi chefs developed the art of slicing raw fish into delicate and beautiful pieces, and the techniques for cutting sashimi were perfected.
Sashimi cuts are an important part of Japanese cuisine, and the art of preparing sashimi requires skill, precision, and a deep appreciation for the beauty and flavor of raw fish.
The three main sashimi cuts – hira-zukuri, usu-zukuri, and kaku-zukuri – each offer a unique texture and presentation, allowing chefs to showcase the natural flavors of the fish.
Additionally, the use of specialized Japanese knives, such as the yanagiba, deba, sujihiki, and takohiki, plays an important role in achieving the perfect cut and texture in sashimi dishes.
Whether served in high-end sushi restaurants or enjoyed at home, sashimi cuts are a delicious and visually stunning way to experience the delicate and nuanced flavors of fresh, raw fish.
Next, find out what are the 14 common sushi fish types (the best 1 to blow the rest out of the water)
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.