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Buying fish for Sashimi (US)

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bm11

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Hello,

I've been a long time sushi and sashimi lover, and while the sushi doesn't fit with the keto diet I am on, sashimi sure does! My wife also loves it, which makes the dish a surefire winner at home. It even was a great excuse to go entirely overboard on a new Yanagiba!

That said, I'm trying to be as prudent as possible when it comes to food safety (IE- it is all managed risk when it comes to eating raw food.) Depending on where you read, everything should be frozen to make 100% sure that all parasites are killed, but I find it hard to believe that happens ever in Japan unless the fish species calls for it. I've read a number of articles that suggest that the FDA doesn't require Yellowfin Tuna to be frozen for restaurant consumption because the risk for parasites in that breed is so low. Another favorite of mine is salmon, and again, it can be a high risk fish but from everything I've read, if it is farm raised the risk is minimal because farm raised fish obviously don't travel to fresh water to spawn and are fed parasite free pellets (I came across an article stating that salmon from 37 different fisheries were tested for parasites and all came up with zero.)

So, my first foray into making sashimi I threw caution into the wind a bit and bought fresh yellowfin and farm raised salmon, and 48 hours later neither of us are dead. That said, I love sashimi so much (and my knife skill apparently could use a LOT of practice,) that I can picture this being a habit, and wanted to know what everyone here does. I figured with the amount of enthusiasm into Japanese culture on this site, there should be a lot of experience on the subject.

If the only safe way to do it is to freeze, I can do it, I have a vacuum sealer. However, I don't have a commercial freezer and would prefer not to risk a mushy product from using my normal slow freezer.

Let me know what you do!

Thanks,

Bob
 

CoteRotie

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Interesting question, can't wait to see everyone's opinions. I am lucky enough to have a local Japanese market (Suruki in San Mateo) that sells excellent quality fish for Sashimi. I trust them and have never had an issue with anything I bought there. I don't know if they pre-freeze it or not. I wouldn't trust fish with or without "sashimi grade" label from a regular supermarket.
 

slickmamba

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I mean, you wouldn't necessarily die, but you might have some friends hanging out in your intestine. They definitely freeze/flash freeze certain fish in Japan. The freshest fish doesn't necessarily make the best sashimi, flavors concentrate over time. Its a common misconception in the sushi world.
 

bm11

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I actually read about aging as well! I don’t doubt that a lot of the fish is flash frozen, but on a zero to no risk fish like tuna and farm raised salmon, would you still want it frozen?
 

slickmamba

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I actually read about aging as well! I don’t doubt that a lot of the fish is flash frozen, but on a zero to no risk fish like tuna and farm raised salmon, would you still want it frozen?
If you can guarantee no parasites, I guess not. But I usually get fish in large quantities, so I break down, vacuum seal, and freeze all of it that I plan to eat raw.
 

Ochazuke

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This is a terrible topic (mostly because the internet is awful as a resource on this topic). But, as a former sushi chef who worked for 15 years in the industry, here I go. Firstly "sushi grade" as a food label in grocery stores doesn't really have a substantive meaning. I'll also say that if you're used to eating sushi in the US that a substantial majority of them are just using frozen fish from one of the main distributors like JFC or True World Foods. If you're concerned about food safety then the safest option is just to buy the frozen "sushi grade" fish you see simply because a) parasites are indeed often killed by commercial freezing and b) the chances of bacterial problems are lower. Overall though I noticed that US consumers tend to exist at two extremes and either be way more worried than they need to be, or so carefree to point that I'm surprised they haven't given themselves food poisoning. I think the middle route is probably best.

If you wanna go fresh here's some super general guidelines (because there's no rules that apply to every single fish). Slickmamba has a point that many fish are aged somewhat before serving as sushi or sashimi, but the reasons why people emphasize getting fresh as possible in the US is because the fishermen here really suck compared to Japanese fishermen. Japanese fisherman will do ikejime to fish they know will used for sushi and will also transport fish to market substantially faster than US fishermen. I wish all fishermen did ikejime though...

The two biggest concerns are parasites and bacteria. Parasites tend to like to live in the guts and will migrate in to muscle after death to try and live longer (again, generally speaking). Microbial growth occurs often times in the fish's blood or guts first giving it that "fishy smell." Because US fishermen don't do ikejime and don't transport fish as quickly to market both of those problems are more likely to occur. You want to pick a fish that has clear eyes, firm muscles, is not slimy, and has no fishy smell. After that some are eaten fresh, some work well with a quick salt and/or vinegar solution, and other really shine with kobujime or shoyu. I've seen others on this forum mention books on this sort of stuff so I'm sure a quick search of the forum will give you further resources.

The basic gist is the US fish markets are depressing. Buy as fresh as possible because the US fishing industry is abysmal. Your risk of parasites or food poisoning in popular fish like tuna or salmon is lower than the internet would probably make you believe (but again, the possibility is still there). Don't be super scared, but use your senses and pay attention -- if something seems odd, err on the side of caution. Educate yourself on the curing methods, because those really make a world of difference for the flavors and textures.
 

Ochazuke

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One caveat: flat fish tend to have a lot of worms. I worked for a spell in a local Japanese grocery store where I would prep fish to sell that would be eaten as sashimi. This included hirame. By the way, a lot of times what's sold as hirame in the US is just local fluke or some other similar flat fish. I sometimes pointed some of my customers to these articles when they would ask me about parasites in these kinds of fish. I like the articles because they don't ******** about the subject but they also don't scare you away from raw fish forever. I like the second one also because it mentions that many parasites don't survive in humans. Again, not quite as dire as many sites on the internet would have you believe. https://ediblesouthshore.com/blog/omg-worms-fish/

https://www.seafoodhealthfacts.org/...and-consumers/seafood-safety-topics/parasites
 

ojisan

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Interesting topic. I don't buy fish at supermarkets for sashimi at all, just because usually fish there don't look fresh enough for raw consumption. If you are familiar with fresh fish, you could feel it's a bit disgusting to eat those available at US supermarkets as sashimi. Their eyes are just too dark to be sashimi...IMO.

One exception is those sold at Japanese supermarkets with "For Sashimi" labels just like CoteRotie mentioned above (yes, Suruki is great, other options around here are Nijiya, Marukai and Mitsuwa). Another exception is live fish bought at half moon bay. It's truly fresh so I can consume it fresh with my own risk in the best condition (as Ochazuke mentioned, 血抜き and 神経締め doesn't look common so much here. sad.). Blacklight could be a help to find parasites, but not a perfect solution.

It's already mentioned that the freshness doesn't mean the taste is good, but still I want to know the history of the fish I'm going to eat and also don't want to be worried about cross contaminations and so on.
 
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bm11

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I think I found a solution.

For what it is worth, I didn't mention it before, but I am in Maine and only about an hour from the coast. There are places to buy right off the boat- I do have options to get fish FRESH. That said, a relative by marriage has a really nice sushi restaurant about an hour and a half from me, and I reached out and they are willing to help. They flash freeze everything they get for safety, so I'm going to stock up on some vacuum sealed fish at wholesale prices.

I assume that flash frozen fish stays fresh for a long time? Meaning I can buy for months in advance?

Thanks,

Bob
 
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daveb

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That's my experience with flash frozen. I've been told the fish are broken down, portioned and frozen while at sea.
 

Keith Sinclair

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Flash freezing is good for seafood. Lobster tails are flash frozen on the boats that fish in the bottom part of the planet. I like lobster and crab both I buy frozen.

Fish fresh local catch usually get from Chinatown.

Have eaten quite a bit of yellowfin tuna sashimi over the years. Yellowfin is local to Hawaiian waters. I'm still around at 70 tho do not eat as much raw as used to. It is big for New Year here. For family new year party I cut a platter of yellowfin & deep fry Tempura shrimp & vegetables. Some times steam fresh fish. Last year cooked a side of salmon, made a tasty sauce for it using fresh tarragon, green peppercorns, white wine, Spanish saffron, fold in butter. They ate it all.
 

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I'm reviving this thread from last summer. I've been making sushi using yellow fin tuna and salmon. I've heard that fresh yellowfin tuna and fresh farm raised salmon are relatively safe to eat raw. I've looked around the northern Colorado area and have decided that my local Sprouts probably has the best quality tuna and salmon for raw consumption. Sprouts' policy for "sushi grade" is, for yellowtail tuna they portion out fresh loin and prepare it without cross contamination, and for salmon they portion out previously frozen fillets and prepare it without cross contamination. My question is, how safe is it to eat fresh farm raised salmon, the Norwegian sourced fish looks pretty delicious.
 

dafox

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Friends of mine in Scotland tell me that the farm-raised salmon there are fed crap, and they get sick a lot. Not encouraging.
Ya, I've watched lots of salmon aquaculture videos on YouTube and I would agree with that.
 

dafox

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Friends of mine in Scotland tell me that the farm-raised salmon there are fed crap, and they get sick a lot. Not encouraging.
But..the farm raised salmon is supposed to be parasite free as their food is parasite free, wild salmon get the parisite from the food that they eat.
 

juice

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But..the farm raised salmon is supposed to be parasite free as their food is parasite free, wild salmon get the parisite from the food that they eat.
And the food pyramid is supposed to produce healthy people. Reality v theory will find reality winning. #FoodPhilosophy
 

Keith Sinclair

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If you believed all the people who say don't eat certain foods you would be left with nothing and starve to death.
 

ojisan

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I ate fresh farm-raised salmon from Costco last week. My wife told me the exactly same logic about parasites to convince me, which still I'm not 100% sure. I don't believe Costco handles those fillets for raw consumption, so cross contamination is another concern. Fortunately, no symptoms so far.

Taste wise, it was not so impressive. Good frozen salmon would taste better.
 

Lars

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The amount of pesticides used to farm salmon is enough to make me eat wild.
 

M1k3

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Depends on the farm. Some farms grow them more industrial like. Cramped quarters swimming in their own mess. Other farms are basically wide open areas with nets.

Sort of like cows and chickens. Some are raised with next to no room to move. Others are raised with pastures to roam around in.
 

Lars

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I should have made clear that I was talking about norwegian farmed salmon. My mistake.
 

LostHighway

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@M1k3 is certainly correct in that not all salmon farms are equal, however, all of them do feed an artificial diet with a far larger percentage plant material. Farmed salmon are commonly troubled by a parasite, Lepeophtheirus salmonis aka sea lice, but this is an external parasite. Farmed salmon tend to contain more PCBs and heavy metals than wild salmon to the extent that one can generalize. I would not regard the salmon farming in the Gulf of Maine as environmentally benign but fish farming broadly has complex environmental trade-offs.
 
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Keith Sinclair

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I wouldn't eat raw salmon. Worked on fishing boats in my teens and early 20's.

Cleaned alot of fish.smaller tuna like Aku can have worms.

Farming is a fact of life. Ocean catches are declining for world seafood demand. Not to mention the plastic fishing boat nets that get lost and end up in the ocean. Certain areas in Hawaii because of currents and location collect more world plastic trash. Quite a bit of large fishing nets.

After reading all the negatives on farmed salmon started only buying wild.

Read "Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout. The making of a Sensible Environmentalist." Patrick Moore is a scientist. He was one of the founders of Greenpeace. He is not liked by many because of his views. It is good to get a different opinion to balance out the strong absolute facts of Life ranted by groups often not based on science.

He covers Salmon Farming & brings up
Many grips about Salmon farms.

Salmon farms are polluting ocean with fish waste.

Salmon are fed large amounts of antibiotics that spread into sea.

Salmon farms spread disease to wild fish

Salmon farms spread sea lice to wild fish causing their populations to plummet.

The feed for farmed salmon contains fishmeal & oil from wild fish. It takes 3 pounds of wild fish to make one pound of farmed Salmon.

Fish farmers feed salmon artificial dies to give color. (Carotenoids are added to feed, same that make wild salmon pink)

In order to save wild salmon we should boycott farmed & only eat wild.

He goes into great detail debunking the rant on farmed salmon.

Don't get me wrong think there are too many on planet still growing most in poorer countries. We create way to much waste. I like animals more than some humans.

I like to cook salmon, get fresh Hawaii fish from Chinatown. I eat both wild and farmed salmon. I truly believe it has more health benefits than risk.
 
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