The Difference Between Sashimi, Sushi, Poke, Crudo and Ceviche
I'm a big fan of all raw fish preparations: sashimi, sushi, poke, crudo and ceviche. I was introduced to these wonderful foods as a kid growing up in Honolulu and they continue to be high on my list of favorites. Raw fish preparation can be very simple, but also lends itself to creativity. This post provides descriptions of each of these dishes, some related recipes and information about the safety of eating raw fish.
Sashimi is simply raw fish, usually sliced thinly across the grain and served with a simple soy sauce and wasabi preparation or my personal favorite, ponzu sauce, a citrus soy sauce. Sashimi can also be prepared tataki-style, or lightly seared on the outside, but still raw on the inside.
I found this recipe in Sam Choy's The Choy of Seafood Cookbook. Sam does two things I really like to this sashimi dish:
1 ) Before searing the fish, he rolls the fish in furikake, or seasoned nori flakes. Nori is the dried seaweed that sushi is often rolled in. I usually make half the fish with furikake. For the other half, I dredge the outside of the fish in Cajun spice to get a spicy blackened fish version.
2) Chef Choy drizzles a grated cucumber, ginger and vinegar dressing over the top of the sashimi, which adds flavor, color and freshness to the dish.
This variation on classic Nicoise Salad features seared fresh ahi instead of canned tuna and I roast the beans and the potatoes instead of boiling them to simplify preparation and bring out more flavor. The result is a fresh and delicious sashimi salad that may become my new summer favorite. I've served it on a weeknight as well as to entertain guests and everyone is always happy.
Note: Nicoise salad is named for French Nicoise olives, a black or dark brown, salt-cured olive from the Cote d'Azur. In the above photo I have substituted Sicilian Castelvetrano olives, a meaty, mild and buttery olive. So, I guess technically it should be called Castelvetrano Salad. : )
Many people equate sushi with raw fish, but in fact the term "sushi" refers to vinegar seasoned rice, which is the basis of any sushi. Sushi can be made with both cooked and raw ingredients and is not limited to fish. Growing up in Hawaii in the 60's and 70's, long before sushi went viral, we had two kinds of sushi: maki sushi and cone sushi. Maki sushi was similar to sushi rolls served today, but made with far simpler ingredients than you see in contemporary sushi restaurants. Cone sushi was simply sushi rice wrapped in abur-age, a fried bean curd wrapper, with maybe a little carrot and sesame seeds mixed into the rice. Cone sushi is also called inari sushi or inari-zushi.
I developed this non-traditional poke recipe after I returned from a trip to Thailand. I love Thai Pomelo Salad that is typically served with chicken or shrimp and thought the flavors of lime, coconut milk, fish sauce and pomelo or grapefruit would also go beautifully with ahi.
Crudo is Italy's answer to sashimi. Pesce crudo means raw fish, but crudo can also mean a preparation of raw meat as in carne crudo. Pesce crudo is thinly sliced raw fish, traditionally dressed with olive oil and salt. Crudo seasonings can be more elaborate and include citrus and spices.
Ceviche, like sushi and poke, comes in many different variations. The basics are raw fish, citrus and onions. Fish or seafood is chopped up in bite-size pieces and briefly marinated in lime, lemon or even orange juice.
A variety of ingredients can be added, including tomatoes, peppers and cilantro. Here is my go-to ceviche recipe.
A Word About the Safety of Eating Raw Fish
I don't want to be a killjoy, but unfortunately, there is always some risk when eating raw fish as raw fish can contain parasites and other microorganisms that can make you sick. Some people are more vulnerable than others, including young children, pregnant woman, older people, people with compromised immune systems and people with low stomach acid. If you are in this group it is recommended that you avoid raw fish.
Many people think the citrus in ceviche actually cooks the fish because the fish turns white appearing to be cooked. Don't be fooled, the fish is still raw and the acid does not destroy bacteria or parasites. Another myth is that alcohol kills bacteria and parasites in raw fish. This would be nice and I won't dissuade you from drinking a cold margarita with your ceviche, or a frosty beer with your sushi, but alcohol doesn't kill parasites in raw fish either.
The FDA recommends all fish that is eaten raw be frozen first, and in fact the "fresh fish" you eat at sushi restaurants and buy at the store has generally been frozen. Freezing kills parasites but not microorganisms, so freezing reduces risk, but doesn't eliminate it.