Sashimi and the Art of the Samurai

SashimiTo serve something raw is a popular way to prepare food, and it is often used in appetisers. It is regarded as an exclusive meal amongst the Japanese, partially because the handling of raw (often living) ingredients requires great skill and know-how. So as to prepare Sashimi, the person is required to have good knife-skills and to understand the concept of freshness.

The Japanese culture takes root in the samurai tradition, especially when it comes to knife-skills. Therefore, the customer should be able to see the difference when sashimi has been prepared by a skilled cook who knows how to handle the sharp blade. Cutting correctly requires extreme precision, which is the product of extensive training. The preparation of sashimi draws many parallels to the spirit and technique of the samurai, to the point where they are virtually inseparable.

The samurai\’s spirit lives on through the Japanese martial arts (Budo), which include iaido, kendo, judo, karate-do, aikido, and kyo-do, and which place more emphasis on personal character development than on defeating your opponent. The key factor is focusing on the mind and its union with the body. Anyone can cut a piece of raw fish with a sharp knife, but to perform it with full concentration and precision, and to draw upon one\’s soul in the process, well, that is a different matter entirely.

The unison of mind and body is the philosophical essence of Japanese martial arts, and represents lifelong training. It serves the purpose of harnessing this energy into every action. The parallel with the preparation of sashimi is precisely this concentration, which influences how the knife is handled and also how the food is served on the plate.

As is well known, Japanese presentation of food must in itself awaken the appetite, and the arrangement of the slices of raw fish combined with shredded Daikon radish and Shiso leaf, must be done so as to illustrate their natural beauty. Presentation is a reflection of the person\’s state of mind, and it therefore represents a lifelong struggle with oneself to maintain one\’s natural stability in both heart and mind, so as to present the meal as beautifully as possible.

As previously mentioned, one can see if sashimi has been prepared by a competent chef. One can see this by looking at the edges of the cut fish. These edges should be sharp, whether the piece is triangular or square. This shows that the fish is fresh and that the chef has used the knife correctly. If, on the other hand, the edges are rounded or have many additional marks from previous attempts at slicing it, then it was done by a less skilled individual. A perfect sashimi preparation is characterised by two things: the way the fish is cut, and how it is presented on the plate. Cutting the fish is not just about using one\’s hands, but about using one\’s heart, and about training continuously.

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