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Frozen Sushi Tastes Just As Good As Fresh Sushi, Study Says

Frozen Sushi Tastes Just As Good As Fresh Sushi, Study Says

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A new study has found that sushi that’s been pre-frozen to kill off harmful parasites is comparable to fresh sushi

Wikimedia Commons

In the great sushi debate, does it matter if your mackerel is fresh off the hook or frozen beforehand?

Earlier this winter, New Yorkers were freaking out over the newly proposed health department codes, which would require all sushi and sashimi to be frozen to kill off any dangerous bacteria. But we explained that freezing sushi prior to eating is actually a common practice in Japan. Now, we have proof that not only is frozen sushi indistinguishable from fresh sushi, but that it sometimes performs better in a blind taste test, according to a study published by the Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan.

During the study, researchers conducted a double blind test that enlisted 40 Japanese researchers and medical students to sample frozen and fresh mackerel and squid. Subjects were asked which tasted better. The study participants believed that the frozen mackerel tasted better almost half of the time, while unfrozen sushi was thought to be tastier 42 percent of the time, and participants thought that eight percent of the fish samples were “comparable in quality.” For frozen squid, participants had a slight preference for the unfrozen variety, with approximately 17 percent of participants believing that the frozen and unfrozen squid tasted the same.

“Freezing raw fish did not ruin sushi's taste,” the study’s researchers concluded. “These findings may encourage the practice of freezing fish before using it in sushi, helping to decrease the incidence of anisakidosis [a disease caused by ingestion of harmful bacteria].”

Another chocolate-banana indulgence, this rolled gets an added twist with pistachios. And with only three ingredients, you'll feel hella fancy without any of the added effort. Cheers to that, loves.

Ruby Siegel

Infinitely cheaper than actual sushi, this Candy Sushi recipe uses Swedish Fish to make an adorable, game-changing snack. It's basically every kids' dream, so channel your inner child and get rolling.

Whether you're vegan, looking to save some cash, or just not into seafood, there are plenty of ways to make sushi without raw fish. And if you're feeling up to the real stuff, don't worry we got you covered there, too.

Spicy ahi poke, inspired by foodland

Spicy ahi poke is perhaps my greatest love in the food world. First introduced to me when I visited Bowl #2’s family in Hawaii, poke is pretty much just fresh chunks of tuna marinated in soy sauce and other ingredients. Some describe it as a Hawaiian ceviche, which I find apt but not all-encompassing of its utter perfection (I just describe it as bliss). The standard version is one marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, and a few other ingredients, whereas our personal favorite is a slightly unhealthier, spicy mayo-based kind that we usually get from Foodland, a Hawaii supermarket chain. This particular kind was part 2 of the Hawaiian birthday feast (part 1 is here), and here is the stunningly simple recipe for how to make it!

In terms of learning how to make this, it was probably the inverse of musubi for me — rather than something I tried over and over figuring it was easy, it was something I never tried to make because I always thought it would be too hard. Instead, I found spicy ahi poke to be surprisingly simple to do, which was exciting because it’s something that is fairly rare out here (and the restaurants that do offer some kind of “Hawaiian-Style Poke” usually serve something that doesn’t taste that similar to the real thing). That was particularly devastating, given that for awhile when we were in Hawaii I demanded it for lunch every single day. I probably won’t make it every day here, considering the steep price for ahi, but it’s a huge relief to know that we can make it if we really want to, and it’s not just a distant dream in that paradise (Food)land that we can only go back to every once in a blue moon.

Originally, the biggest obstacle in my mind was finding fresh fish that (a) tasted good and (b) didn’t kill us. Or at least didn’t give us toilet problems (sorry, tmi?). Maybe I am exaggerating this feat, but it seemed dubious. Raw fish is always a mystery to me. Anyway, it turns out that if you can find a good quality, flash frozen tuna labeled “sashimi grade,” it will do just fine, and the fish market near us has great quality frozen ahi. (Here’s an interesting NYT article on how freezing the fish may actually be better, since it kills parasites, and is actually extremely commonly done even among the best sushi restaurants in NYC!)

Once you find that, all you need is some everyday ingredients to marinate the poke in. Like I mentioned, it’s most commonly sesame oil, soy sauce, and chopped green onion, along with some other variations (often nori, for instance). But our spicy mayo-based marinade, based on the version from Foodland, adds Sriracha and mayonnaise to the mix. If you prefer the shoyu version, it is more or less just the first three steps of the recipe for spicy ahi poke, but I’ve also reprinted it on its own at the end.

Standard shoyu poke (sesame oil, soy sauce, and green onion). Print

Homemade Sushi

When we were living in Mexico, one of the biggest things DH and I have missed from Cali is Sushi. Fresh seafood sushi. Spicy Tuna Rolls. California Rolls. Shrimp Tempura Rolls. Dragon Rolls. Rainbow Rolls. And the list goes on. For awhile we were back in the states often enough to get a sushi fix that would last a couple of months. But then we had this dry spell for basically 9 months! 9 months of no Sushi, who could live?! We decided to just buckle down and prepare some homemade sushi.

Delicious Rating: Sushi is a lot of work and takes a lot of time. Because I like walking in a sushi joint, ordering, and eating very soon, I didn’t enjoy the whole process of Sushi making. But we didn’t really have a choice. Everything was Delicious. We prepared spicy tuna, crab mix, shrimp tempura, and sashimi for a variety of rolls. My DH makes up some California Rolls a lot now, since those are the easiest to prepare. As for the rest of the rolls, I think I will wait until I am stateside again! But again, these Sushi Recipes are easy, delicious and great. So if you like to prepare Homemade Sushi, try out one of the following recipes.

Tuna's Red Glare? It Could Be Carbon Monoxide

BUYERS of fresh tuna, whether at the sushi bar or the supermarket, often look for cherry-red flesh to tell them that the fish is top-quality. But it has become increasingly likely that the fish is bright red because it has been sprayed with carbon monoxide.

The global seafood trade has expanded so much over the last decade that tuna, once a seasonal delicacy, is available year-round. But getting it to consumers while it still looks fresh is difficult. Tuna quickly turns an unappetizing brown (or chocolate, as it is called in the industry), whether it is fresh or conventionally frozen and thawed.

Carbon monoxide, a gas that is also a component of wood smoke, prevents the flesh from discoloring. It can even turn chocolate tuna red, according to some who have seen the process.

People in the seafood industry estimate that 25 million pounds of treated tuna, about 30 percent of total tuna imports, were brought into the United States last year, mostly from processors in Southeast Asia. Retailers in the United States buy it already treated.

The Food and Drug Administration says the process is harmless. But Japan, Canada and the countries of the European Union have banned the practice because of fears that it could be used to mask spoiled fish.

Carbon monoxide preserves only the color of the fish, not its quality. Suppliers and retailers who use the treated fish say the process allows them to sell high-quality, flash-frozen fish that still looks good enough to eat. Jerry Bocchino, an owner of Pescatore, a fish store in Grand Central Market in New York, said that his sales of tuna have tripled since he switched to the treated kind two months ago.

"With fresh tuna, you're always racing the clock to keep the color and keep it from spoiling," Mr. Bocchino said. "And once it turns brown, no one wants to buy it. People love the color of this stuff."

Tim Lauer, a seafood dealer in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, said that most sushi bars and supermarkets there have switched to the product since it was introduced in the late 1990's. "I've lost all my sushi customers for tuna, since I won't sell it," he said.

Just because a slice of tuna is brown, it does not mean it is not fresh. And other factors determine the color, including the fat content, species and cut. The finest fresh bluefin, which sells for up to $40 a pound at Tokyo's wholesale fish markets, is not a deep red but a pale pink because of the fine web of white fat that permeates the red flesh. Top-quality toro is often a brownish red.

But for most consumers around the world, vendors say, lollipop-red flesh signals freshness and quality. Tuna treated with carbon monoxide is bright red when first defrosted, and fades within a couple of days to a watermelon pink. But "you could put it in the trunk of your car for a year, and it wouldn't turn brown," said one sales representative at Anova Foods, a distributor in Atlanta, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The use of carbon monoxide in food is hardly new, as any barbecue or smoked salmon fan should know. (Wood smoke contains carbon monoxide.) But the gas used by many overseas producers, although tasteless, is more concentrated it can be as much as 100 percent carbon monoxide, said Bill Kowalski, an owner of Hawaii International Seafood.

American processors like Hawaii International and Anova Foods are racing to market their own versions of the technology, using wood smoke that is filtered to remove the elements that make food taste smoky. These processors use lower concentrations of the gas and tag their product with trademarked names like Tasteless Smoke, Clearsmoke and Crystal Fresh.

Opinion about carbon-monoxide-treated tuna is sharply divided, and illustrates the complex issues that consumers have to wade through at the fish market.

To supporters like Mr. Bocchino, Mr. Kowalski and Dr. Steve Otwell, a researcher at the University of Florida, carbon monoxide treatment is an important advance in food safety that accommodates the realities of the marketplace. Instead of fresh tuna that is likely to spoil quickly, they reason, consumers get a high-quality frozen product that can be transported safely, thawed when needed, and keep its fresh look. "The industry scrambles to get fresh tuna to market, but the reality is that by the time a long-line Pacific tuna makes it to an American supermarket, it could be as much as 30 days out of the water," Dr. Otwell said. "That's much more of a health risk than treated tuna, as long as the raw material is good and the treatment is controlled."

Roman Choudhury, the manager of two sushi restaurants in Manhattan, buys treated tuna when he cannot get it fresh, particularly for tuna rolls. "At my price point, it's almost impossible to have a steady supply of fresh tuna," he said. "And people always, always want tekka maki."

Detractors call the process risky and dishonest. "There's no reason to do this other than to deceive the consumer," Mr. Lauer said. "There are natural solutions to the problem of browning."

One is ultra-low-temperature freezing, which keeps tuna at about 80 degrees below zero for months or even years without browning. But maintaining such low temperatures during the long trip from boat to plate is a very expensive proposition.

Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group, said, "Anything that masks the true age of a piece of fish is a public safety risk."

As tuna ages, it becomes more likely to cause scombrotoxin poisoning, which is rarely severe or fatal. It is the most common form of food poisoning from seafood in the United States, the Center said.

The F.D.A. has put carbon-monoxide-treated tuna on its list of substances generally regarded as safe. The agency permits its use to preserve the color of fresh tuna, not to enhance brown tuna, and requires stores to label treated fish. But they often do not.

What does all this mean at the market? Any tuna that is hot pink has probably been treated with carbon monoxide. Tuna that is bright red may be extremely fresh, and therefore very expensive, or may have been treated with the gas.

"Outside of Hawaii bright red tuna that is selling for less than $12 a pound is probably treated," Mr. Lauer said. "On the other hand, there's nothing to stop people from selling treated tuna for $20 a pound if they can get away with it."

Sushi Fresh From the Deep . . . the Deep Freeze

To many food lovers, sushi has become a near religion, and a cornerstone of the faith is that the fish is extraordinarily fresh. Its priests are chefs with seemingly mystical abilities to summon fresh fish from all corners of the globe.

But because of health concerns and growing demand, 50 to 60 percent of sushi in the United States is frozen at some point in its journey from the ocean, according to wholesalers. And rare is the sushi restaurant that tells customers upfront that they may be eating fish that has been in deep freeze for up to two years.

Most would be even more surprised to learn that if the sushi has not been frozen, it is illegal to serve it in the United States.

Food and Drug Administration regulations stipulate that fish to be eaten raw -- whether as sushi, sashimi, seviche, or tartare -- must be frozen first, to kill parasites. ''I would desperately hope that all the sushi we eat is frozen,'' said George Hoskin, a director of the agency's Office of Seafood. Tuna, a deep-sea fish with exceptionally clean flesh, is the only exception to the rule.

But tuna is often frozen, too, not necessarily to make it safe, but because global consumption of sushi continues to rise. Frozen fish usually costs about half as much wholesale as fresh. And some cuts, like the prized fatty toro, are not always available fresh.

Naomichi Yasuda, the owner of Sushi Yasuda, the acclaimed sushi restaurant in New York City, said he imported fresh tuna but froze it himself, selling it for $10 a piece.

'ɺmerican customers don't want to hear that something is out of season'' he said with a shrug. ''People want toro every day.''

At the Elizabeth, N.J., warehouse of True World Foods, a manager, Ken Kawauchi, recently readied a room-size freezer to receive eight more tons of premium tuna frozen with sophisticated technology that chefs say preserves the texture and flavor of the fish.

''This product is better than fresh,'' he said. ''We start freezing it almost before it's dead.''

At 76 degrees below zero, you can feel your hair follicles freeze. A 20-pound chunk of premium bluefin tuna is rock hard and cold enough to burn a blister on your finger.

But all it takes is a band saw, 10 minutes and a bowl of warm water to produce deep red, dewy slices of the finest sushi money can buy, the same toro served at Manhattan sushi shrines.

Sabine Marangosian, who works in Midtown Manhattan, said she ate sushi 'ɺt least once a week.'' ''I guess I would understand that some sushi is frozen,'' she said. 'ɻut I would hope that's not the case at Nobu.''

But Shin Tsujimura, the sushi chef at Nobu, closer to Wall Street, said he froze his own tuna. 'ɾven I cannot tell the difference between fresh and frozen in a blind test,'' he said.

Even Masa Takayama, whose sushi temple Masa, in the Time Warner Center, charges a minimum of $300 to worship, said he used frozen tuna when fresh is unavailable.

Many sushi bars, in Japan and elsewhere, routinely use frozen fish when fresh is unavailable or more expensive than the market will bear.

''In Japan,'' Mr. Kawauchi said, '❐ percent of the sushi and sashimi is frozen. Only my American customers are so concerned with fresh fish.''

Americans have clearly overcome the initial resistance that greeted sushi when it was widely introduced nationally in the 1980's.

The number of Japanese restaurants across the country has steadily increased in the past five years, according to the National Restaurant Association. And that number does not include the supermarkets, delis, cafeterias, and Costco stores where sushi can now be purchased.

A.F.C. Sushi, a Los Angeles-based sushi franchiser, has more than 1,800 outlets nationwide. It already supplies the Staples Center, in Los Angeles Florida State University, in Tallahassee, Fla. and the United States military, which buys sushi for its commissaries. Although the company's Web site refers to 'ɿresh sushi,'' A.F.C. uses only frozen fish in its products.

According to wholesalers like Dave Rudie, a pioneering sushi supplier in California who sells both fresh and frozen fish, more and more frozen fish is being served as sushi here.

Mr. Rudie said that worldwide, some sushi products are virtually always frozen. ''Ninety percent of shrimp, of course,'' he said, The salmon roe 'ɺnd octopus, 99 percent. And you definitely want all your salmon frozen, because of parasites.''

The Food and Drug Administration does not enforce the frozen-fish rule, leaving that to local health officials. The agency says sushi fish can be frozen either by the wholesaler or in the restaurant, and each party likes to believe that the other is taking care of it.

''I always assumed that the fish is frozen at some point before I get it,'' said Jack Lamb, owner of Jewel Bako in the East Village in Manhattan, 'ɻut just for a minute, like an X-ray.''

Ian MacGregor, whose wholesale business, Lobster Place, supplies the sushi hot spot Geisha, in Midtown Manhattan, said he had heard countless euphemisms for frozen fish in restaurants. 'ɿresh-frozen, re-freshed, flash-chilled, take your pick,'' he said. ''It's all frozen.''

But ''superfrozen'' fish seems to be in a category by itself. Many top sushi chefs are finding that fish frozen to about 70 degrees below zero, instead of the commercial standard, usually 10 below, can stand up to their rigorous standards.

Tuna, one of the most expensive sushi fish in the world, has been the test market for superfreezing.

Freezing technology that truly preserves the quality of fresh fish is relatively new, said Eric Graham, managing director of ColdWave Systems, a global seafood shipper.

Developed by the Japanese fishing industry in the 1990's to preserve the catch on long trips, superfreezing can reduce the core temperature of a 500-pound tuna to minus 70 degrees in about a day and a half. Packed in artificial snow ground from dry ice and surrounded by liquid nitrogen, that fish can be preserved with no decomposition for as long as two years.

''It's an amazing product,'' said Mr. Lamb, who recently bought a medical freezer, designed to store transplant organs, to keep tuna in his restaurant's basement.

But in places like Los Angeles, where the Japanese Restaurant Association of Southern California has considerable local support, frozen sushi is not a popular notion.

''We try to recognize that sushi has been made with fresh fish in Japan for thousands of years,'' said Terrance Powell, chief environmental health specialist for Los Angeles County.

Mr. Powell and his team of 150 inspectors have held food safety classes for sushi restaurant operators in Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese, but he concedes that most operators, knowingly or not, are probably not serving only frozen fish.

'ɿrankly,'' he said, ''warm sushi rice that sits out for hours is a bigger public health threat than raw fish.''

Let’s cook the most basic sushi roll, California Sushi Roll!

California Sushi Roll Recipe

The most popular roll sushi borned in U.S.

Prep time: 10 mins
Coock time: 10 mins
Total time: 20 mins

Ingredients (Serves 1 Roll, cut )

  • 5 oz of lukewarm sushi rice (Sushi Rice Recipes)
  • Half sheet of nori seaweed
  • 2 oz of cooked crab meat or imitation crab meat
  • 1/4 of an avocado, sliced in the inch slices
  • 5 thinly sliced cucumber (Kirby or pickling cucumbers, peel off skin)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Kewpie Mayonnaise

Cooking Directions

  1. Wrap the sumaki with plastic wrap. This will prevent rice from sticking on to the surface of the sumaki. Place the half sheet of nori horizontally. Lightly wet your hands, and cover the nori with layer of rice.
    TIP: It is better to make a narrow rice ball the length of the nori first, and place the rice ball on the bottom edge and spread the rice by pushing the rice towards the upper portion of the nori.
  2. Sprinkle sesame seeds as desired. After the rice is evenly spread out, flip the nori, so that the rice side is facing the sumaki, and the nori side is facing up. Place your ingredients in the bottom portion of the nori (not too close to the bottom edge).
    TIP: Mix crab meat with mayo to make a dressing. For imitation crab, dice up the imitation crab into smaller pieces first before making a dressing.
  3. Using the sumaki, fold the bottom portion inwards so that it covers the ingredients. It is ideal to have about an inch or inch and half of nori left over (you do not want to over stuff the roll).
  4. Apply pressure on the sumaki so that the roll is tight, and continue to wrap the remaining portion. The inside ingredients should be wrapped about 1.5 times, rather than just once.
  5. When cutting the roll, place the roll out of the sumaki onto a cutting board. Moisten the knife with a wet towel, and cut it into halves first. Then, line up the two halves and cut it into 3 evenly spaced pieces so that you will get a total of 6 pieces from a single roll.
    TIP: When cutting a sushi roll, do not attempt to “chop” it by pressing hard. Rather begin with the front edge of the knife, and while pressing down, pull the knife backwards towards you, so that you are “slicing” it. It will prevent the roll of being squashed and give you a cleaner cut.

How to Make Boston Roll Sushi

Note: Since the sushi rice is tacky, I suggest creating a mixture of 1/4 cup water and 2 tbsp rice vinegar. It will limit the rice from sticking to your hands.

You will also require a bamboo sushi mat to make this roll.

Step 1

Cover it with a piece of plastic foil. It will keep the rice from sticking to the mat.

Cut the Nori sheet in half (it’s possible to use scissors), and put it on the Bamboo Mat.

Step 2

Spread half the rice on the Nori sheet. Twist the rice and Nori (I lift it with the plastic foil), so the rice is around the floor, and the Nori is at the top.

Skin and slice the avocado and cucumber into matchstick patterns. I also like to remove the cucumber seeds.

Put avocado, cucumbers, and shrimp in addition to the Nori sheet.

Step 3

Put your thumbs under the Bamboo Mat and lift gently. Start folding the sushi, but see not to roll the Bamboo Mat in it.

Lift the Bamboo Mat and the plastic foil. Cover the rice with tobiko.

Cover the rice with all the plastic foil and place it over the Bamboo Mat so that the tobiko stick to the sushi roll.

Let it stand for 5 minutes.

Step 4

Repeat the procedure to use the remaining ingredients.

Slice the sushi, serve and enjoy your meal.

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6. Origami Wraps Made From Fruit And Vegetable Puree

With the rising popularity of sushi across the world, people looking for different ways to adapt to sushi as per their taste. As a result, many manufacturers have come up with substitutes for seaweed. One interesting and delicious alternative is the origami wrap like this made from the puree of fruits and vegetables.

These wraps can be bought online and they can add brilliant colors to your sushi. According to the manufacturer, the color and taste may vary depending upon the crop and seasonal changes. Here are some of the popular origami flavors:

Mango Origami Wraps are made from fruit and vegetable purees. The flavor resembles that of ripe tropical mango with the fresh tang of chipotle pepper. They are vegan and gluten-free substitutes for seaweed.

Carrot Ginger Origami Wraps (see Amazon) taste like fresh and sweet carrots with the spiciness of ginger. They are healthy and vegan alternatives to Nori wraps used in sushi rolls. These wraps are gaining popularity in restaurants that serve non-traditional sushi.

The Barbeque Origami wraps are my personal favorite. It has a tangy and sweet tomato flavor base with a hint of mesquite and hickory. These are vegan, healthy, and gluten-free substitutes to adding seaweed for making sushi.

Minimize Your Risk

The absolute safest way to avoid fish parasites is to not eat fish or to only eat fish cooked to 145°F, but that rules out sushi and just about any restaurant who knows how to properly cook a fish. If you do eat raw fish, your risk factors depend entirely on how trustworthy your source is. You can always make sushi from fish being sold as “sushi-grade” when in doubt.

Unfortunately for consumers, "sushi-grade" is an unregulated marketing term that may just serve to decrease the movement of their supply due to the higher price

It’s a safe bet that anything sold as “sushi-grade” has followed FDA guidelines for freezing, even if there is no legal mandate to do so. But at the exorbitant cost of most sushi-grade items, you might be better off just buying the sushi from a restaurant! There’s no cost savings to making it on your own, nor is it common to have a wide selection of fish in the “sushi-grade” category. Typically it’s limited to maguro, sake, hamachi, tako, and saba, only two of which have parasite-related risks anyway. If you’re lucky, you might find a slightly broader selection of ika, hirame, ikura, and tai.

This leaves the adventurous souls with a higher tolerance for risk to purchase fish for sushi from the best source they have access to, whether it was labeled for use in sushi or not. If you feel comfortable with the risks and are prepared to source fish for your sushi, stick to these strategies to keep the parasite risk low.


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  3. Kazrabar

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