All sushi in the US is flash frozen at some point in transit before it gets to your table, which I believe is a legal requirement. This is done to kill any dangerous parasites (such as Anisakis simplex) in the fish and protect consumers. I understand the policy, and won’t argue the safety point, but I will argue that it does something to the food that we consumers end up paying for. Well, not all of us, mind you, but there is an element out there that really savors the fish (like those audiophiles who claim to hear all sorts of things in music that the rest of us have no clue about) and there is no question in my mind that the quality is impaired by this process.
I can speak from experience. Years ago I was on a fishing boat with my cousin and, to make a long story short, he caught a large bluefin tuna. When we returned to shore that day the crew had already arranged for a group of Japanese men to meet us at the dock and offer a large sum of money to my cousin for the fish, which he took. What we also took was a large hunk of the fish that we ate then and there on the dock. This was not a chilled, previously frozen, perfectly cut and presented piece of neta, this was a hunk of maguro that was alive only a few hours ago. And it was great. The flesh was resilient and smooth, with slightly more texture than I was used to with standard maguro. I can’t say that it was night and day, because the differences were subtle, but to me, this was clearly not the maguro that was my usual fare. It made me wonder what else I should try right from the boat (although the only other fish I have tried raw and fresh was one I cannot remember the name, but I had the opportunity to catch on my sister’s research vessel in the Caribbean as she is a marine biologist).
Fresh sushi is something that anyone should try if they have the opportunity. I guess the risks of parasites are higher if you don’t treat the fish, but if you are willing to take that risk (and I sure am, and I eat oysters, clams and other critters raw all the time too) then do it. It’s like the Kobe beef vs. standard beef issue, if you can appreciate the difference then you deserve it, but if you are like my father, it’s probably just another piece of steak. I personally prefer the Kobe.
Happy New Year!
The Sushi guy.
I have always been fascinated by the creation and culture of different foods, particularly sushi and sashimi in the modern era of Japanese cuisine. I am a classically trained chef and sushi connoisseur, also having operated a food service company and enjoy investigating and experimenting with food around the world.