Making sushi at home is fun, easy, and actually less expensive than going out to a restaurant. Aside from the intimidation factor, the big issue that many people seem to have, and ask me all the time, is where do you get sushi grade fish to make sushi at home… While I have a few links up on SushiFAQ, I though to write a short piece about what to look for and how to find it for those of you who want to take the plunge and start making your own sushi.
What is Sushi Grade Fish?
Firstly, you should keep in mind that there really is no such food grade as sushi grade fish. For a detailed treatise on what really makes a piece of fish sushi grade, I recommend reading the section of SushiFAQ which answers this question, What is sushi grade fish? However, what this term really means is that the fish is fresh and handled properly enough that one can be reasonably sure that it is clean and parasite free. In most cases it has been frozen to a low enough temperature for long enough that any parasites that the fish may have had have been destroyed. Most fish that you will find in any grocery store or fish market is not sushi grade fish, so ask questions and know what you are buying if you intend to eat any seafood raw.
Sourcing your fish
When choosing your fish, make sure it looks clean, not slimy, and smells subtly of the ocean, and not overly fishy. If it looks or smells funny, avoid it (but some fish, such as tuna, may have a slight rainbow hue on the surface of the flesh which is normal and natural, not a sign of poor quality or processing). Remember, the nose knows. There are a few places that one might find fish of high enough quality that it can safely be made into sushi at home:
Japanese Markets – If you are fortunate enough to have a Japanese market near you, they may very well sell fish that is considered sushi grade. If you are in or near a city, chances are, you may find a Japanese grocery store somewhere local. While you will generally find a variety of fish there, you can ask or look for the area where they will probably sell fish that has already been cleaned and cut into pieces that are ready for sushi. Often, they are cut into a rectangle, ready to be sliced against the grain for perfect sushi neta. Just make sure that the fish you buy is specifically meant to be eaten raw, as it may not be in the same area as the fish sold which is intended to be cooked. I buy a lot of fish from my local Japanese grocer.
Grocery Store/Fishmonger – Don’t even think about it. While it couldn’t hurt to ask you local fishmonger if they do in fact sell sushi grade fish, most do not, and never assume that a fish you buy from a grocery store or fishmonger is safe to eat raw.
Online – In my experience, the best online purveyor of sushi grade fish is Catalina Offshore Products. They have an incredible assortment of different seafood, a great deal of which is sushi grade and sold for making sushi at home. They even have items that can be hard to find, such as abalone and multiple grades of uni (sea urchin), and even have one of my all time favorite seasonal items, ankimo (monkfish liver), which can be very difficult to find. Most items are shipped frozen, so you can defrost and use at your leisure, and, if you are totally new to making sushi at home, they even sell sushi kits and all the ingredients you will need to get started. There are a few other places online that I have used, but they all seem to come and go, and I am now at a point where I personally only buy online from Catalina.
The Ocean – Yes, believe it or not, you can eat salt water fish you catch yourself as sushi. I mention this with big red blinking words of caution, however, as most people cannot necessarily be certain a fish a fish is parasite free and clean enough to eat raw without proper training, but if you know what to look for, you can tell a good fish from a bad one. I have eaten tuna right out of the water and can say that is a vastly different food than tuna that has been frozen, thawed, and shipped around the world for a few days. It is truly an amazing food.
There you have it. Thanks to the internet and the globalization of culinary interests, one can probably expect to be able to get high quality fish for sushi without too much effort. The Internet has opened up that option for a lot of folks, and with more and more people eating sushi, whether for the perceived health benefits, or simply because it’s just so darned good, our ability to find great ingredients increases. I have introduced a lot of friends to making sushi at home, and when they see how easy it can be, they often continue the practice. You don’t need a book, just the desire, and the right fish can make your evening sushiful and fun. Perfect sushi rice isn’t hard to make and sushi kits are easily acquired, so once you have what you need, get down to business. And if you want to let me know how your sushi making went, please comment below, I’d love to hear.
The sushi guy