FISH OFF... CHINA VS JAPAN
Updated: Mar 26, 2022
Have you tried eating raw fish? Don’t doubt this - eating raw fish may become your best food experience!
The freshly sliced raw fish, which has the "most original" and "freshest" taste, enjoys a high reputation in Japan and becomes popular in Australia. But, do you know the way of eating raw fish actually started more than 2000 years ago?
Oh, and it’s origin is not in Japan! Hmmm...which country is it then?
And do you know what makes a successful and unforgettable plate of sliced raw fish? What about the etiquette to enjoy it?
Have a read below to find out the answers!
You’ve probably confused sashimi for sushi before- don’t worry, it happens! But the difference is actually that sushi includes vinegared rice.
Sashimi, the famous Japanese dish, describes raw seafood, usually fish, which is sliced into bite-sized bits. Eaten raw with soy sauce and wasabi, sashimi is always made out of the freshest seafood of which Japan, surrounded by oceans, has an abundance. This is the reason why sashimi came to be in the first place.
Sashimi is also quite popular in Australia, where tuna, salmon and kingfish are commonly used for sashimi in Japanese restaurants. The slices of raw food are often presented arranged atop of a bed of shredded daikon (white radish) and garnished with shiso leaves (perilla leaves). At some restaurants, the rest of the fish is sometimes presented alongside the sashimi as decoration.
Are you aware of sashimi etiquette?
That’s right, as with most parts of Japanese culture, there are rules for eating sashimi. Some are fairly straightforward but others might come as a bit of surprise.
Here are some rules (don’t worry, just treat them as rough guidelines!):
When adding soy sauce to your individual sauce dish, add only what you need rather than filling the dish completely, which can be considered wasteful. The solution? Just a half teaspoon or so in the bottom of the dish is usually plenty to season just a few pieces of sashimi.
Wearing aftershave or perfume to a sushi restaurant (or any restaurant for that matter) is thought quite rude in Japan, as strong smells interfere with the delicate taste of the fish. Considering that our perception of flavour is mainly aroma, this is a good rule to follow to maximise your appreciation of the meal.
Many say it's taboo to mix wasabi and soy sauce together for dipping sashimi into, but there actually many Japanese who do just that. It's usually best to keep the wasabi (or other karami) separate and dab just a little on the fish before dipping it lightly in the soy sauce. That way you can vary the amount of wasabi for each type of fish and in any case, in a mixed plate of sashimi the karami served with each piece may be different.
It’s well known that sashimi is boasted in Japanese cuisine, but do you know it actually originates from China?
The history of Chinese eating raw fish can be traced back to the pre-Qin period more than 2000 years ago! The earliest record of raw fish eating in Japan was in the 7th century, which was the Tang Dynasty when Chinese culture had the most influence on Japan. Before the Japanese word “さしみ(sashimi)” appeared, people use the Chinese character “脍(kuài)” to refer to all raw meat slices, following its original meaning in Chinese. However, with the time going, the way of eating raw fish in the two countries has evolved under the influence of their own culture, and now shows distinct flavourful features.
The freshly sliced raw fish has also been called Yu Sheng in China. Although this cuisine is from 2000 years ago, you can still find it in Chaoshan today!
It seems very easy to make this long-history dish: pick up the fish, get it peeled and eviscerated, then take out the meat. The whole process must be in 5 minutes and free from water to inhibit the growth of bacteria. And after ten minutes of air drying the fish meat, it will become super tight and springy!
But, in fact, to make the premium Yu Sheng is a great test of knife work, as the fish should be cut into slices less than 0.5mm, which as people describe, is “as transparent as a cicada wing” and “as light as silk”.
Different from Japanese sashimi accompanied with wasabi and soy sauce, Chaoshan Yu Sheng always comes with various kinds of cool and refreshing vegetables and a sauce made with soybean paste, sesame oil and chopped ginger, or garlic, peanut paste, and peanut oil - It is said that each Yu Sheng restaurant has their own different dip, which is their secret weapon to attract repeat customers!
More excitingly, apart from raw fish, Chaoshan people also use the techniques to slice other aquatic products! Thus dishes like Xiangba Sheng (sliced raw geoduck) and Longxia Sheng (sliced raw lobster) are also very popular among customers.
Such a way of eating raw fish is actually a representation of Chaoshan people’s eating habit that appreciates the original taste of ingredients. A knife, a fish, and no more other cooking processes, the flavour from thousands of years ago can be handed down to this day, and will continue to be passed on and on.
Bio: Alson Cai is an international student from China who is currently in her final year studying Journalism and Public Relations at the University of Technology Sydney. With bilingual skills of Mandarin and English, she also has good understanding of Chinese culture and status quo. Besides interning for Captain Bagrat, she also has published works on SBS Mandarin, Central News, The Junction, and Shantou Daily.
Bio: Eunice Cruz is a Filipino-Australian currently in her second year of Journalism and International Studies (China Major) at the University of Technology Sydney. She is always eager to learn more about other Asian cultures and is particularly interested in Korean language and culture. She has a strong passion for food, beauty and make-up. She also has a keen interest in investigative journalism and is events director of UTS Journalism Society.