Sashimi sides: field-guide to raw fish garnishes

daikon_tsuma_AG

In my Nov. 29 column in The Japan Times, I wrote about what a reader described as the “the stringy piles of daikon radish” that come with sashimi.  As I explained, the daikon is called “tsuma,” written with this character: 褄.

It used to be that learning to prepare these super-skinny strips was a rite of passage for everyone aspiring to the job of sushi chef. First, you’d have to learn how to use a knife to turn out a paper-thin, continuous roll of radish.  This way of cutting is called “katsura muki” and requires hours of diligent practice.

If you managed to master that, next you’d have to be able to do this:

Alas, things aren’t what they used to be. Now there are machines that can handle the job in seconds. This one brags that it can turn out daikon for 100 in just five minutes:

Unless you’re dining upscale, chances are your daikon strings will have come out of a machine, or a bag from a food-processing factory. But daikon isn’t the only garnish for sashimi. All sorts of vegetables, flowers and seaweeds can be used to pretty up raw fish, and all are referred to as tsuma. It’s a generic term.

First, let’s look at the veggies. Carrots are popular — they’re cheap, colorful and hold up well.

carrots

Less familiar are murame ムラメ, the sprouts of the red shiso plant.

murame01

And here they are in situ — they’re the purple and green leaves, up front on the right.

SONY DSC

I’m very fond of myoga, the buds of the ginger plant. They have a crisp texture and unique taste, quite different from ginger root.

myoga

Here you have a nicely chopped pile of myoga, tucked attractively under leaf of green shiso (beefsteak plant, Perilla frutescens).

101016_191019

Not all garnishes are vegetables, of course. Chrysanthemum flowers (kiku 菊) are a perennial favorite. Yuk, yuk.

kiku_tsuma2

Another flower that often turns up often is kasui  花穂 (spicata),  a member of the spearmint family.

kasui

And then there are the seaweeds. First up, tosaka トサカ (Meristotheca papulosa).

tosaka

Next, wakame ワカメ (Undaria pinnatifida).

wakame

This one’s called ogo オゴ (Gracilaria vermiculophylla). If it’s got a common name in English, I couldn’t find it. Despite that nice green color, it’s a red algae. Go figure. And it’s listed in the Global Invasive Species Database.

ogo

One last weed — igisu イギス (Ceramium kondoi).

igisu

I’ll add more as time allows. Put a bookmark in your phone for handy-dandy reference while dining! Bon appetit!

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2 Responses to Sashimi sides: field-guide to raw fish garnishes

  1. Todd Ramsey says:

    Sad to hear this will be your last column in ‘Japan Times’. One of the few columns I looked for and read regularly. Hopefully you will continue similar postings here on your blog or maybe publish a book collecting what you have written (published or not). Thanks for the articles!

  2. Anthony says:

    I read that your columns will stop appearing in the Japan Times. Since it was there that I discovered your columns, I am sad that this is so. I have enjoyed your writing very much. I will continue to follow you here and also look for you on episodes of Tokyo Eye. Good luck with any new endeavours.

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