There are several species of shells called Baigai. Among them, the whitish Baigai such as Kagabai (Buccinum bayani Jousseaume,1883), Echubai (Buccinum striatissimum Sowerby,1899), Ooechubai (Buccinum tenuissimum Kuroda in Teramachi,1933), and other whitish Baigai, collectively called Shirobai.
Kagabai lives in depths of 200 to 500 m from the Noto Peninsula to Hokkaido, with shells reaching 15 cm in height, while Echubai (Finely-striated buccinum) is caught in the Sea of Japan west of the Noto Peninsula, at depths of 200 to 500 m, with shells reaching 15 cm in height. Ooechubai (Finely-striated buccinum) is endemic to the Sea of Japan north of Shimane, living at depths of 400 to 1,000 meters, and reaching a shell height of 25 cm. Ooechubai is considered the most delicious of the Shirobai, and the larger the size, the more expensive.
What does Baigai nigiri sushi taste like?
As the name “Shirobai” (Shiro means white) shows, the meat is pure white and shiny like white porcelain. After the characteristic crunchy texture of the shellfish, sweetness and bitterness spread softly in the mouth.
If you are worried about the hardness of the meat in Nigiri sushi, it might be better to taste it as sakamushi (sake steamed). It becomes moderately tender and easy to make nigiri. To enhance the light flavor, you can also boil it quickly in kombu dashi (kelp stock) during preparation.
It is not familiar as sushi topping in the Kanto region, but is often found at sushi restaurants in Kanazawa and other areas. As a side note, from the sound “bai (bai means double)” in Baigai, it is considered a fortunate food, as it doubles the amount of good fortune.
What is Aka (aka means red)-nishi-gai (gai means shell)?
There are three typical types of shellfish called Aka-nishi-gai: Naganishi, Ko-naganishi, and Aka-nishi. Yonaki-gai (夜泣貝), enthusiastically favored in Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures, is the Naganishi (Fusinus perplexus (A.Adams,1864)) caught in the Seto Inland Sea. It is no longer caught in large quantities, and Ko-naganishi (Fusinus ferrugineus Kuroda & Habe,1961) from the Sea of Japan is used as a substitute. This shellfish is a smaller version of the Naganishi, and has a unique astringent taste in its entrails.
Aka-nishi (Top shell) is a carnivorous shell commonly found in tidal flats of inner bays in Japan, and in the Kanto region, it is a natural enemy of oysters and clams rather than a target for fishing. Its flesh is softer than that of the turban shell (Sazae), and some say it is tastier. In recent years, large quantities of frozen top shell has been imported cheaply from Turkey and Bulgaria, which face the Black Sea, so when you hear “Aka-nishi-gai” at conveyor belt sushi restaurants, you are probably talking about this. Aka-nishi-gai is considered an invasive alien species in the local market.
What does Aka-nishi-gai (Ko-naganishi) sushi taste like?
Ko-naganishi is a member of the family Fasciolariidae that inhabits the Sea of Japan from Mutsu Bay to Kyushu, where it grows to a shell length of about 8 cm. In Ishikawa Prefecture, it is caught in Nanao Bay (七尾湾) and is often used in sushi toppings. Its season is from September to November. The color of this shellfish is bright red, which is derived from its name. The texture is chewy and the aroma of the sea fills the mouth, and at Nigiri sushi, it is served in Gunkan maki, which some tourists come for. In Nanao, Ko-naganishi is called Aka-nishi-gai (赤西貝) instead of the standard Japanese name Aka-nishi (Rapana venosa (Valenciennes,1846)), which is a little confusing at times.
Stone flounder (Ishigarei) is distributed along the coasts of Japan, the Kuril Islands, Sakhalin, the Korean Peninsula, and Taiwan. It lives in sandy mud at depths of 30 to 100 meters, and its total length reaches 50 cm. The body surface is smooth with no scales, but there are large longitudinal bony plates on the dorsal surface of the body on the eye side and other small bony plates. In Japan, depending upon the region it will be called other names, such as Ishimochi, Ishimochigarei, or Shirogarei.
It was caught in large quantities by bottom trawling fishing and was synonymous with cheap flounder. However, since the Edo period (1603-1867), it has been treated as a luxury fish in Tokyo. This is because white fish are scarce in summer, and even now, as summer approaches, the price rises along with Japanese sea bass (Suzuki) in the market. However, there was a time when it became a phantom fish that could not be caught at all due to the reclamation and development of Tokyo Bay that began after World War II.
What does Stone flounder (Ishigarei) sushi taste like?
Stone flounder is made by quickly removing the bony plates during the preparation process to avoid the characteristic muddy smell of flounder. It has clear, elegant flesh with a moderate aroma of the sea and a rich flavor with just the right amount of crunchiness. It caught in Tokyo Bay is highly prized and is served as sashimi and sushi, but it is also delicious simmered, or grilled.
As a rule, only live fish can be used for nigiri sushi. Nojime and Ikejime are also not highly valued because the umami component of flounder rapidly decreases after death. Stone flounder, which can be found in abundance in supermarkets at reasonable prices, cannot be used for nigiri sushi or sashimi. It also has a distinctive odor when it is no longer fresh, so it is best to remove it quickly and remove the skin. Skinless fillets can be enjoyed even after maturing for a while.
Dogtooth tuna (Iso maguro) is distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical waters of the Middle and Western Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In Japan, it is distributed mainly in southern Japan and is abundant in the Ogasawara and Nansei Islands. They migrate to rocky reefs and coral reefs, either alone or in groups of several dozen. The total length is around 1.5 meters. Its scientific name is Gymnosarda unicolor (Rüppell, 1838). It belongs to a different group from bluefin, yellowfin, and relatives are not hard to imagine.
It resembles tuna and bonito but is easily distinguished by its wavy lateral line behind the body. It is characterized by the presence of scales only on the pectoral fins and the pectoral carapace around the corselet, and by its large mouth with harp piranha-like teeth.
Its light flesh is slightly softer and less fatty than that of tuna and has almost no acidity. It is easily damaged, has a slight odor, is not very tasty, and is not marketable. It is known more as a fishing target than as a food source. It is known more for its speed and pulling power than the Caranx family. Large Dogtooth Tuna can cause ciguatera poisoning, so be careful. This fish is often sold canned or frozen.
Pacific barrelfish is distributed throughout Japan south of Hokkaido, adult fish lives near the bottom at depths of 150 to 400 meters, and its Japanese name is Medai (Me means eye). It is a large fish, reaching 90 cm in length, with large eyes, hence its Japanese name. If the body color is red, it looks somewhat like Splendid alfonsino (Kinmedai). Its scientific name is Hyperoglyphe japonica (Döderlein, 1884).
The coloration of the body surface is generally blackish when young, but as adults, the overall coloration becomes lighter, with the back turning reddish grayish brown.
It is a member of the Japanese butterfish (Ebodai) family, which is different from the red seabream (Tai), and its body surface is slimy. The season is from fall to winter when the fish is fatty. Typical production areas are Shimane, Yamaguchi, Nagasaki, Kochi, and the inner bays of Tokyo.
What does Pacific barrelfish (Medai) sushi taste like?
There was a time when many market participants had a negative image of Pacific barrelfish, as many of the frozen products were not as fresh as they should have been, and the taste was not good enough. Around 2022, the impression of Pacific barrelfish changed due to its good fat content and texture, and it became a popular fish purchased by famous sushi restaurants.
Pacific barrelfish has a beautiful reddish-red color of chiai (dark-colored flesh) on its white flesh when cut into pieces, making it a good-looking sushi fish. It has a sweet taste and is cheaper than other shiromi such as Red seabream (Tai), Bastard halibut (Hirame), and Greater amberjack (Kanpachi). When making nigiri sushi, it should be made into shiojime and refrigerated overnight to increase the umami.
Sakhalin taimen is distributed only in the southern Kuril Islands, Sakhalin, Primorsky Territory, and Hokkaido. It used to be distributed in Lake Ogawara, Aomori Prefecture, but has already become extinct. In Hokkaido, it inhabits gently meandering rivers in the Konsen Plain, Sarufutsu Plain, and Sarobetsu Plain.
Reaching a maximum height of 2 m, it is the largest freshwater fish distributed in Japan. Its Japanese name is Itou and its scientific name is Parahucho perryi (Brevoort, 1856).
The body color is light purple or light green on the back side and silvery white on the belly side. Unlike other salmonids, Sakhalin taimen lay their eggs in the spring and do not die, but instead lay them over and over again for many years. Females are usually larger than males, sometimes twice as large as males. The “魚鬼” Chinese character combines “魚” (fish) and “鬼” (devil). As the Chinese characters suggest, it is known for its ferocious nature.
It is also farmed in Aomori and Niigata, but because it takes 5~6 years to grow to 50 cm in length, it is not commercially available and is used at hotels and other places as a regional specialty.
What does Sakhalin taimen (Itou) sushi taste like?
Its flesh is not peculiar and is a slightly pale orange color. The texture is tender but strangely does not feel tender and melting. It is rarely served at sushi restaurants in Tokyo, but it is probably farm-raised Sakhalin taimen. Whether or not it is a natural product, it is a very rare item, so if you find it, you should definitely try it.
Noresore is believed to be a juvenile of the Anago, but the species’ name is not really known. The larvae of Unagi (Japanese eel), Anago (Japanese conger), and Hamo (Daggertooth pike conger) are called Leptocephalus and are elongated and flattened, leaf-like in shape. They are transparent to the muscles and spine and are 5~6 cm in size. This is called Noresore in Kochi Prefecture. It arrives at the market from February to May, but the quantity is small and the freshness fades quickly, so the price is always high.
Many people look forward to it as a delicacy in early spring. Indeed, the smooth slurping and subtle sweetness are something special that cannot be tasted anywhere else. When eaten raw, it goes well with ginger soy sauce, wasabi soy sauce, or ponzu (Japanese citrus juice).
What does Noresore sushi taste like?
When made into sushi, it is served with green onions and ginger as condiments, and in a Gunkan maki. The atmosphere is similar to that of Shirauo (Japanese icefish), but it is much more slippery to the palate, much like the high-end Gelidium jelly. In Tokyo sushi restaurants, it is sometimes served as Tsumami, but almost never as Nigiri sushi.
Sea squirt (Its Japanese name is Hoya) is thought to be a specialty of the Tohoku region, but it is distributed from Hokkaido to Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, as well as from the Korean Peninsula to the Shandong Peninsula of mainland China.
It has red, hard skin and protruding warts, the tops of which have entry and exit holes, and lives attached to rocks and other objects on the seafloor.
The sea squirt is nicknamed the pineapple of the sea because of its resemblance to a pineapple, which is not clear whether it is an animal or a plant. It is a close relative of vertebrates, although it is not at all imaginable. Its size is about 20 cm.
The two main species of Hoya (海鞘、老海鼠) consumed in Japan are Ma-hoya (Halocynthia roretzi (Drasche, 1884)) and Aka-hoya (Halocynthia aurantium aurantium (Pallas, 1787)). Miyagi Prefecture accounts for about 80% of the nation’s production, while Aka-hoya is mostly produced in Hokkaido.
What does Sea squirt (Hoya) nigiri sushi taste like?
Its edible parts are the muscles and internal organs, which are removed by peeling the skin. Hoya’s gonads get fatter in the fall and its muscles become leaner. Then, after May, the meat gets fatter and has eight times more glycogen than in winter, making it tastier and sweeter. If the body color of Ma-hoya is pineapple color, Aka-hoya is the color of a persimmon seed that has fully ripened to bright red.
Sea squirt takes in a lot of seawater, so it has a strong smell of the sea anyway. It also has a unique umami and bitter taste because it is rich in amino acids such as glycine and alanine.
Ma-hoya is generally considered to have a stronger flavor, while Aka-hoya is relatively mild. Ma-hoya is not for everyone, but it can be enjoyed as an unusual sushi topping.
Japanese spiny lobster is found along the Pacific coast south of Ibaraki Prefecture and is distributed as far as Taiwan. Its length reaches up to 40 cm. Its well-known production areas include Chiba, Wakayama, Shizuoka, and Mie prefectures. Its Japanese name is Ise ebi.
It is very special to the Japanese. With its stately beard, armored appearance, and bright red color when boiled, it has long been regarded as a symbol of good luck, an indispensable part of celebratory occasions. It is also a symbol of longevity.
What does Japanese spiny lobster (Ise ebi) nigiri sushi taste like?
To be honest, it seems a waste for Nigiri sushi, as it is often used in cooking due to its good appearance. However, its flesh is resilient, and in particular, it contains glutamic acid, which is an umami component, as well as glycine and arginine, which give it a sweet taste, on a level with Kuruma prawn. It can be served raw or as Yushimo-zukuri, which brings out its sweetness and is delicious as nigiri. Some sushi chefs also use Kobujime, so adjusting the moisture content is a key point in preparation.
The name “Ise ebi” comes from the Ise Peninsula, which includes the Ise region, where it is often caught. The taste of fish caught in this region is good, and Chiba Prefecture currently boasts the largest catch of Ise ebi.
However, imported products such as Australian spiny lobster (Jasus novaebolandiae Holthuis) and Rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii (Hutton,1875)) from Australia and New Zealand are much more widely distributed. Rock lobster is distributed only in the southern hemisphere and looks different from Spiny lobster. The Rock lobster is different from the Spiny lobster in appearance, and the Spiny lobster has a transmitter that produces a sound, while the Rock lobster does not.
Namako (Sea cucumber) is a slender invertebrate measuring 20~30 cm in length. It has numerous protrusions on its body surface. The spawning season is from late spring to early summer, and the season is winter. Its scientific name is Apostichopus armata (Selenka, 1867).
There are three types of Namako (海鼠): Aka-namako (brownish-brown), Ao-manako (bluish), and Kuro-namako (blackish). Aka-namako has an elegant aroma and a strong, crunchy texture when eaten raw, while Ao-manako has a stronger scent of the sea, is moderately soft, and is less expensive than Aka-namako. Kuro-namako, on the other hand, is mainly used as a high-end ingredient in Chinese cuisine. The difference in color is due to the difference in habitat, which is the same namako.
What does Namako (Sea cucumber) sushi taste like?
To prepare Namako, it is first gutted and washed with salt. Afterward, the sea cucumber may be quickly passed through Bancha to remove its distinctive odor and soften its meat. It is then sliced into 2-3 mm thick slices and soaked in vinegar quickly. This is then served in a Gunkan maki. However, it is rare for it to be served as sushi, and is often served as a vinegared dish.
In Europe, the word “Trout” often refers to Brown trout. It has been transplanted to many parts of the world as an angling target fish.
Since the 1860s, it has been transplanted to all parts of the world and has become established in natural waters. It appears to have been transplanted to Japan in the 1930s via the U.S. mixed with Brook trout eggs, and natural reproduction has been confirmed in Lake Chuzenji, Lake Ashi, and the upper reaches of the Katsura River.
Body shape is similar to Rainbow trout, etc. The body color is grayish blue with relatively large black spots on the dorsal surface of the body and near the base of the dorsal fin, and whitish-orange spots below the lateral line. 1-5 years in freshwater, then become smolt and descend to the sea, spending 6 months to 5 years in the ocean. The descending type is also called Seatrout. Some spend their entire lives in freshwater areas such as rivers and lakes. It reaches a maximum length of 0.7 m.
What does Brown trout sushi taste like?
Brown trout is said to have less fat and a lighter flavor than rainbow trout, and when eaten as sashimi, it should be frozen completely before eating, since it is a freshwater fish, it is possible that parasites may be hidden in it. It also has a fishy odor unique to river fish, so it is necessary to quickly remove the blood. However, we have never heard of a sushi restaurant serving brown trout nigiri. Brown trout and Rainbow trout hybrids are sold as Shinshu-salmon (信州サーモン), and their market price is over 2,000 yen per kilogram. Shinshu-salmon nigiri is commonly eaten in Nagano and other places in Japan.
In Europe, where it originated, it is a high-grade fish that is delicious to eat. It is farmed mainly in France and Austria for eating purposes. However, compared to Rainbow trout, it grows more slowly and is more difficult to farm, so there are only a few companies that provide it. Hence, it is expensive. The main way to eat trout is to cook it. Incidentally, Schubert’s song “The Trout” was inspired by the brown trout.
There are only high rank toppings such as rich tasting sea urchin (Uni), salmon roe (Ikura) and herring roe (Kazunoko). All different from other sushi toppings when it comes to a texture and flavor. A lot of them have become widespread ever since the technique of gunkan style sushi was established after the war. There are also sushi toppings made from other than fish and shellfish.
*Japanese terms will be italicized on sushi ingredients page.
The first item recommended to taste is white-flesh fish. Because of its subtle flavor, it doesn’t influence the following topping. Serving it for the very first piece of sushi is a standard move. However, absolute umami in the lightness can be taken as the details Japanese love and no other sushi toppings can offer.
Shiromi refers to white-colored fish meat. The fat content in Shiromi is generally low at about 1.2% in flounder and 4.7% in sea bream. Almost all white fish have a subtle and elegant taste. Furthermore, the rigor mortis takes over slowly and lasts for a long time, so it maintains the crunchy texture longer. Unlike Akami, the Shiromi fish don’t really migrate. You can call yourself a sushi expert if you’re able to recognize which fish it is just by looking at the cut.
Contrary to appearance, Salmon is classified as Shiromi. The salmon is originally grey, and the pink color comes from the pigments of the shrimp and crab on which it preys. We also think that Buri and Shima aji meat looks more beige than white. To be more specific, these are classified as Iromono, but there are relatively few chefs who actually know this term so we will refer to them as Shiromi. Once you’re able to speak knowledgeably on Shiromi, you’ll be a true Sushi Foodie.
What you should keep in mind is that most Shiromi fish used at sushi restaurants is sold as live fish. The broker implements Ikejime according to the instructions of the purchasing shop and then it is delivered. Basically, the chef calculates backward from the time he will make the sushi, aiming to maximize the umami. Furthermore, the price is at least 50% higher, considering the cost to transport from the fishing port to Toyosu Market, etc. This is one of the reasons Shiromi is so expensive at sushi restaurants.
Of course, only white fish that can be used for nigiri sushi is listed. Many varieties of Fugu exist, but with the exception of Torafugu (Japanese puffer fish), they are mainly used in conveyor belt sushi.
*Japanese terms will be italicized on sushi ingredients page. Parentheses after the English name indicate the scientific name.