Monday, September 28, 2009

Is your sushi fresh or frozen?

Bluefin-tuna sushi, front, and cooked eel at Hiura in Fort Lee (2013).

By Victor E. Sasson

You might be surprised to learn the pristine slice of fish that melts in your mouth at a good sushi parlor had been frozen, along with all the other raw fish you eat.

Consumer Reports On Health urges sushi- and shashimi-lovers to "make sure that the fish was frozen before serving, because that kills the parasites sometimes found in fish. (The Food and Drug Administration requires restaurants to take that step, though enforcement can be lax.)"

It says you should prepare sushi at home only using frozen fish.

In other words, it is illegal for a U.S. restaurant to serve fish raw unless it has been frozen first. The publication echoed an article about sushi I read in 2004 in The New York Times' Dining In/Dining Out section, "Sushi Fresh from the Deep ... the Deep Freeze."

The June 2009 Consumer Reports newsletter also says consumers "should choose pieces made with low-mercury fish, such as salmon or shrimp," though doesn't mention that the vast majority of salmon served as sushi is artificially colored farmed fish. 

Tuna and mercury

Tuna, also a popular fish for sushi, has a high mercury content.

I try to limit my raw tuna consumption to the once-a-year carving of giant (frozen) bluefin tunas at Mitsuwa Marketplace, the Japanese supermarket in Edgewater. 

Last year, I purchased a quarter of a pound of the best belly meat ($60 a pound) and enjoyed seven slices of meltingly beautiful, marbled fish at home.

I like raw fluke and other "white" fish as sushi and sashimi. 

Hiura Restaurant

My favorite Japanese restaurant for sushi is Hiura in Fort Lee, a small, family run BYO. Though expensive, the sushi, sashimi, sea urchin, fish eggs and cooked dishes have never disappointed.

If you are going to buy sushi at the supermarket, H Marts in Englewood, Little Ferry and Ridgefield have their own sushi sections and a fourth market from the Korean chain is slated to take over the space once occupied by Kings in Fort Lee. 

Avoid the stuff sold in ShopRite. The sushi at the new Whole Foods Market in Paramus is excellent, but prices are high, compared with H Mart.

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