Kitchen Myths

Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken

Sushi means raw fish

Many people think that “sushi” is synonymous with raw fish. Not so – the term actually refers to the vinegared rice. This is made by dissolving sugar and maybe a touch of salt in rice vinegar and tossing with the hot, just-cooked rice. Sushi therefore refers to vinegared rice served with other ingredients which may or may not include fish (which in turn may be raw or cooked). The vinegared¬†rice itself is referred to as shari. Raw fish served by itself without the rice is called sashimi.

13 responses to “Sushi means raw fish

  1. Tom April 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Great site! Just a word on “sushi” … it can mean the rice, but it can also mean the event/place (“going for/to sushi”) or the meal (“I’m having sushi for lunch”). The rice in its full name is “sushi meshi”.

    Here’s another sushi myth for you: The fish is raw. In fact, the FDA does not allow that fish be pulled out our waters and sliced for sushi. Instead, the fish is broken down and pieces are “cooked” by freezing them to kill any parasites and then slowly thawed back to the “raw” state. This “cooking” method makes the fish safe to eat in its raw state.

    • E January 14, 2013 at 8:55 am

      You are completely WRONG!!!! The FDA only gives a recommendation. The rule is NOT enforced. Ask all of the best “SUSHI” fish suppliers and they will tell you that most of it that is considered high grade IS NOT Frozen!!! I had to find this FACT out the hard way as I tried to order the fish myself from the best retailers. Go ahead and find out the TRUTH yourself.

      • Jan Sefl April 11, 2017 at 5:20 pm

        overwhelming amount of THE HIGHEST grade tuna in THE WORLD being sold at the largest fish market in Tsukiji Japan, is auctioned frozen as it takes many hours to get fish to the market, then sell it, then transport it, then prepared. if you know anything about post mortal changes of any flesh, you would not make such a uneducated comment. You have been played….

  2. Kevin Liu November 27, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    In fact, “sushi” means “salted” or “sour-tasting” and today refers more to the rice than the fish. That’s because sushi began as a piece of salted, fermented (soured), and pressed fish known today as narezushi. It made its way from Southeast Asia (where fermented fish sauce is popular, hmmm?) up to Japan. Today, since the fermented fish has been replaced with fresh material, the rice that comes with all sushi is flavored with vinegar and sugar.

    Sushi is a fascinating topic, not least of which because it is a relatively new development in haute cuisine. Did you know that up until the late twentieth, even the Japanese considered the fatty belly of Tuna (called Toro) unfit to eat and routinely sold it as cat food? It’s now one of the most expensive cuts of sushi.

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  7. Dom May 5, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Need to correct 1st page which states sushi means raw fish second page states sushi means vinagered rice

  8. Frank Dang October 6, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Sushi is seasoned rice. Usually calrose rice or referred to as sticky rice. Other rice usually falls apart when used. Fish for sashimi has not been frozen. It has been chilled to decrease spoiling not frozen. For blue fin tuna it can cost between $50 to over a hundred plus dollars a pound. You don’t pay that for frozen fish. Beside the store has to say that the fish has been previously frozen. Then it becomes less desirable.

    • kitchenmyths October 6, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      Your comment about freezing is inaccurate. Some fish are indeed frozen before being used for sashimi. Not all, of course. I recall being in the Tsukiji market in Tokyo and seeing dozens of bluefins on the auction floor frozen stiff as a board. It’s also the case that a lot of sashimi-grade fish is frozen to kill parasites.

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