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Salmon Sashimi and Salmon Sushi

salmon sashimi thinly sliced

An Introduction to Salmon Sashimi and Sushi

Most of us would agree, salmon makes a delectable ingredient for any meal. But if the image that comes to your mind is a grilled salmon fillet; a platter of baked salmon steaks; or a serving of crispy, skin-on, pan-seared salmon, let’s add to your vision: how about some simple salmon sashimi and sushi? Fun to say and delicious to eat!

Let’s answer some questions you might have about our Popsie salmon:

Are your salmon sushi grade

Yes. Our salmon are sushi grade. We are proud to say that all of our fish - salmon, halibut, cod and sablefish - are sushi grade. But actually, the question you asked has some nuanced answers. We know just what you need to know, though, so let’s continue.

What is sushi?

First, a quick explanation for those who may not be familiar with sushi. Many people associate the word sushi with raw fish, but the Japanese word sushi literally translates as “vinegar rice.” The other closely-related term is sashimi, which means raw meat in general - most often, raw fish like salmon or tuna.

Sushi by definition and practice doesn’t need to contain raw fish at all. It may just consist of sticky rice and nori seaweed, but often it artfully includes the best seafood available, plus other ingredients such as avocado or cucumber that are chosen by the chef and influenced by tradition. Thus, when inquiring whether the fish you’re considering buying is “sushi-grade,” what you really want to know is, “Are your fish safe to eat raw?” Those in the business - and that would include us - refer to these fish as being sushi grade (or sashimi grade)

However, just to be clear, the government does not “grade” fish. A fish is labeled “sushi grade - or “sashimi grade” by the seller. So it is vitally important for you to be able to know and trust the seller.

Are your fish sashimi grade?

Yes. We sell only sashimi-grade salmon, sashimi-grade halibut, sashimi-grade cod and sashimi-grade sablefish.

For our fish to be sold as “sashimi grade,” they must be high quality fish that are frozen, and kept frozen, properly. “Sushi-grade” and “sashimi-grade” fish - those terms are used almost interchangeably - are caught quickly, bled upon capture and gutted soon after. Then they must then be handled according to the strict guidelines set by the FDA. Those guidelines always include these requirements for freezing:

Freezing at an ambient temperature of -31°F (-35°C), or below, until solid, and storing at an ambient temperature of -4°F (-20°C), or below, for 24 hours; these conditions are sufficient to kill parasites.

How are sushi-grade and sashimi-grade fish frozen?

Sashimi-grade fish must be blast frozen. Also called shock freezing or flash freezing, blast freezing is a process designed to rapidly bring down the temperature of the food being frozen. A blast freezer operates at an air temperature of -30° to -40°C, compared to the standard freezer, which is usually kept at 0°C. Food put in your typical household freezer takes about six to twelve hours to freeze, but the colder temperatures in a blast freezer accelerate the process dramatically.

When fish is frozen, the water inside its cells crystallizes into ice. The longer the freezing process takes, the larger the ice crystals that are formed. When these large crystals burst, they rupture the fish’s cells, affecting the taste, texture, flavor and even the color of the fish.

Blast freezing, however, quickly freezes the water in the cells into very tiny crystals. This prevents damage to the flesh and preserves the fresh quality of the food. 

Fish that have been blast frozen in state-of-the-art freezers, like ours, maintain their newly-caught qualities. Our process minimizes cell wall degradation, ensures safety and maintains quality, texture, color and flavor. That’s the magic of blast freezing. All the sashimi you eat in a high quality restaurant in your salmon sushi has been blast frozen.

Are fish labeled “sashimi grade salmon” guaranteed to be fresh and safe?

If, in a grocery store or supermarket, you spot a package of salmon labeled "sushi grade” or “sashimi grade” salmon,” does this guarantee the quality of that fish? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that the seller declares the salmon to be safe to be eaten raw. So it’s important that as a discerning customer, interested in the quality of the sockeye salmon you eat or feed to your family, you know your sellers. Are they reliable? Can they track the salmon back through the supply chain to its source? Was the fish frozen in a blast freezer shortly after being caught? Has the fish been thawed? For how long? 

What about farmed Atlantic salmon? Is it better to eat farmed salmon or wild salmon?

That’s an important question.  Wild salmon are almost always from the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of America. The most popular are Alaskan wild sockeye salmon. 

Farmed salmon are usually Atlantic salmon, because wild Atlantic salmon have been severely overfished and the stock is almost decimated. Atlantic salmon, therefore, are virtually always farmed salmon.

You will often see farmed Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, in supermarkets. They are a pale pink color with a mild flavor and relatively soft flesh. Sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka, are a thinner, firmer fish with an intense red-orange color and rich flavor.

What Seafood Watch, an independent guide to fish consumption (affiliated with the Monterey Bay Aquarium) says:

We recommend avoiding most farmed Atlantic salmon because of excessive chemical use and disease. Nutritionists generally recommend eating wild salmon over farmed salmon.

The majority of the farmed salmon now rated by the Seafood Watch program have been rated in the “avoid” category for reasons related to chemical use, disease, and salmon escapes.

What the Cleveland Clinic says, in its Feb. 17, 2022, Nutrition Magazine article: “Fish Faceoff - Wild Salmon Vs. Farmed Salmon”                                                                                                    

A 3-ounce fillet of wild salmon has fewer calories and half the fat content of the same amount of farmed salmon. And . . . farmed salmon has more than double the saturated fat content — and that’s not the fat you want. 

Bottom Line: wild salmon gets the edge for having fewer calories and less saturated fat.

What your friendly, knowledgeable Popsie Fish Company folks say:

Wild Alaskan salmon win the race every day in our book! Our wild sockeye salmon are Olympic-medalist strong and shimmeringly healthy. After all, they compete all their lives. Consider that most sockeye salmon begin life in a little stream somewhere in the wilds of Alaska, Canada or the Pacific Northwest, navigate all the way to the Pacific Ocean, grow and eat and get strong there, then retrace their journey, swimming perhaps a thousand miles or more upriver to reach their spawning grounds. As these healthy, lithe athletes dart and weave to evade predators, they gobble up protein-rich zooplankton and little fish to prepare for that long grueling swim back home. Their muscles are understandably strong and their fat is lean. 

All the while, their distant Atlantic cousins paddle around in their pens, getting fatter on their artificial feed.

Popsie sashimi grade salmon are wild, nature-made, hand-caught, world-class fish. 

(Though we might be biased!)

Where does your Popsie salmon come from?

See the bold print in the section above. Our three generation family of fishers personally hand catch these fish in our shoreline setnets in Bristol Bay, quickly bleed them, and immediately place them in slush ice to be transported to the processor, just a few minutes away. There they are head-and-gutted, sorted by quality and blast frozen, which instantly stops any degradation of the flesh, and of course kills any possible bacteria or parasites. Popsie sashimi grade fish are only the top-graded fish; ours are known as the best of the best. You cannot find wild-caught sockeye salmon of any higher quality than ours. 

Why do you label your fish “sashimi grade”?

At The Popsie Fish Company, we sell our beautiful, Bristol Bay, Alaska, wild salmon as sashimi grade because they are premium fish gently handled, sustainably harvested, impeccably processed, instantly blast frozen and responsibly managed - from the fisher to the fork, as we like to say. Our fish and our processors meet and exceed all the required certifications and qualifications for best-of-the-best fish. 

What happens when we order fish from The Popsie Fish Company?

When you order our wild-caught frozen sockeye salmon - or halibut, or cod, or sablefish - it will be delivered to you frozen solid, cradled in dry ice and packed in a beautifully sturdy recyclable box. (They’re fully insured, and our shipping is carbon neutral.) Individually wrapped and vacuum-packed in 6-ounce, serving-size packages, these beautiful fish are ready for the freezer, the fridge or the frying pan.

Or . . . they’re ready to be cut into sashimi, right out of the package.

How do we make sashimi?

Easy. Just get a very sharp slicing knife and cut off the skin. (But we suggest you save it and fry up that crispy omega-3-rich skin because it’s a super nutritious and tasty garnish for vegetables or rice.) 

Now make thin cuts perpendicular to the direction of the spine. This means you’ll cut the flesh across the grain (just like you would with meat to make it tender and not stringy). 

Now it’s sashimi. You can dip it in soy or a soy-and-wasabi sauce and enjoy it just like that, or you can get creative and concoct your own sushi. Skip to the end for an easy how-to-make-sushi video.

Should we know the provenance of the fish we buy?

All the sashimi you eat at fine restaurants, looking and tasting so deliciously fresh and inviting, has all been previously frozen. That’s the magic of blast freezing and proper, shall we say, provenance. You are guaranteed to be able to find out your fish’s complete provenance, or history, if you order sockeye salmon sashimi at a quality restaurant. Its chef will know where it was caught, how it was handled, when it was frozen, and how long it’s been thawed.

We know the colorful details of our fishes' stories, too. We can tell you every move in their journeys. The Popsie fish you’re cutting up at home for sashimi is the highest-quality restaurant-grade wild sockeye salmon you can buy - just like the fish you’d eat at your favorite chic restaurant. Only this time, you've saved gas, time and money to create your own delicious sashimi salmon dishes at home. Future sashimi meals are just as close as your freezer.

How should we cut salmon for salmon sashimi?

Be sure you are buying only the highest quality flash- frozen salmon. Thaw your salmon portion or salmon fillet in the refrigerator overnight, and let it sit out of the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes until it reaches room temperature. Remove skin and pin bones, if any, and pat it dry. 

Lay your salmon on a clean cutting board. With a very sharp knife, cut strips about three inches wide, one inch “tall,” and a quarter-inch thick. You need to cut across the grain, which will create the tenderest slices. At this point, your quarter-inch thick fish slices are called salmon sashimi.

Here’s a short video that will show you just how easy it is:

How to slice salmon for sashimi and sushi

You can eat your salmon sashimi just as it is, with a light soy sauce or a squeeze of lemon juice for a flavor accent.

How do we make salmon sushi? 

You’ll want to go on a shopping trip before sushi day to pick up some supplies: short-grained white rice and nori seaweed are the basics. Then you could add one or more of the following: cucumber, avocado, cream cheese and sesame seeds.

This video does a great job of demonstrating just how easy it is to make homemade sushi, and gives a few great tricks of the trade:

How to make simple sushi

You could make a traditional salmon sushi roll, or you could be a little more adventurous and try this recipe from Sitka Salmon Shares: the Salmon Sushi Stack. Please let us know if you give it a try - or we’ll let you know, if we get there first!

And while you have all those good sushi ingredients on hand, you might like to try this Easy Folded Sushi Sandwich that you can create with your leftover salmon.

Either way, salmon makes a delicious ingredient for any meal!

To buy the highest quality wild-caught sockeye salmon, just click here:

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