Sushi Bites

Tako (Octopus)

It has a subtle, cleanly delicious taste that gives it a particular, yet loyal, fan base.Most all Nigiri-style sushi (that is, slices of fish on top of a hand-formed ball of rice) will contain a small amount of hot wasabi. (This is applied at the chef’s discretion, and Unagi is the typical exception to this practice). The taste of Tako, however, is exceptionally enhanced by the wasabi and so it might be given much more than the other pieces, on average. What is also special about Tako is that instead of being cut by a single, one-directional motion, as is the rule for cutting other fish, it is cut in many short and quick sawing motions, resulting in a corrugated surface. This was originally done as a way of demonstrating to customers that the specimen was parasite-free, but it stuck as a tradition.Outside of Japan, the whole octopus is thoroughly boiled before it is carved, resulting in a very opaque white flesh and a dark purple skin. In Japan it is served similarly, although it can sometimes also be served raw and grey, and a lot chewier.

Basashi (Horse)

It is vastly most popular in East Asian countries, Japan, China and Korea, where it is a frequent delicacy. Elsewhere in the world it is less common, but present; places like South America, the Middle East and Continental Europe. It is far more scarcely available in the UK, Australia and Canada, and least of all in the United States, where it strongly opposed and viewed by many as taboo.In Japanese, Horse meat is generally referred to as Sakura-niku (which means “cherry blossom steak”), but when it is cut into thin slices and served sashimi style, it is called Basashi. It is very lean and fairly tender, tasting close to other rare-prepared red meat like beef and mutton (more so beef, but definitely distinct from beef). It actually contains much less fat than beef, and twice the iron. Without a doubt, the best garnish for Basashi is freshly grated ginger and diced onions. This is a must.


Tobiko is the roe (ovaries) harvested from flying fish. It is used as a component in many Japanese dishes, and in the US it is most commonly seen on the outside of California Roll or “Golden” California Rolls. Plain Tobiko is orange, salty in taste, and crunchy in texture. Occasionally it is served with a raw quail egg cracked directly on top of the battleship piece, with a Shiso leaf (think of a mint leaf, but not exactly). This is a very fancy item with, needless to say, a complex flavor.Tobiko comes in an assortment of alternative flavors and colors; wasabi (green), squid ink (black), spicy hot (red), and yuzu, a citrus fruit (yellow). Often Tobiko is substituted with the cheaper Masago (roe of capelin), but Masago eggs are slightly smaller in size, messier, and a lot brighter orange.

Salmon Skin Roll

Together with tuna, salmon invariably constitutes any chef’s top-selling fish, both in volume and for profit. Because of this fact, chefs inescapably find themselves with a seemingly endless surplus of salmon skin, which is cut off and not included in the nigiri, sashimi and other rolls. With all the extra skin around (granted, the chef must make a conscious effort to scale the fish and save the skin, instead of discarding it indiscriminately), there is always the possibility that a chef will be happy to make a Salmon Skin Roll, even if it’s not on the menu.The skin, a speckled gradient of white, silver and black, tastes like a combination of the fish itself and the pungent seawater in which it lived. It should be baked or broiled beforehand, which makes its overall prevailing quality one of “toasty.”

Yellowtail with Jalapeños

In sushi parlance, “Yellowtail” (Hamachi) refers to a species of fish whose common English name is Japanese Amberjack. This is not to be confused with Yellowtail Amberjack, whose sushi name is Hiramasa, and that is also sometimes called Mossback or White Salmon. Nor is it to be confused, which it often is, with any species of tuna or mackerel, such as the Skipjack, whose sushi name is Katsuo, or the Yellowfin, which falls under the umbrella term “Maguro,” or Japanese Jack Mackerel, the whose sushi name is Aji, not to be confused with the Ahi, the Hawaiian name for Yellowfin. Hamachi should be common enough to avoid all this disorder, but it’s always good to know what you’re eating, exactly.Hamachi has a full, savory flavor due to its high fat content. In fact, during the winter months, the flesh can be so saturated with fat that it will not even hold soy sauce and might actually repel it. Its color can be inconsistent, but it shouldn’t be too white (when it is thereby known as Inada), or red (thereby known as Buri), but should be a heavy pink color, not translucent at all, with a sort of brown tint to it. It will turn more tan as it becomes less fresh, so it should differently be nice and pink.

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