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Sushi's Secret: Why We Get Hooked On Raw Fish
NPR ^ | May 23, 2014 | MICHAELEEN DOUCLEFF

Posted on 05/24/2014 5:10:03 PM PDT by nickcarraway

Raw fish is sizzling hot right now.

Los Angeles has brand new bars devoted to an Italian style of raw fish, called crudo. President Obama kicked off his visit to Asia last month noshing nigiri at Jiro's famous sushi bar. And back in December, The New York Times named Sushi Nakawaza as its top restaurant of the year.

But why do so many of us find utter bliss in eating raw sea creatures but aren't so inclined to chow down on uncooked birds, cows or pigs?

A big part of it is gravity — or the effective lack of it in the ocean, says biophysicist Ole Mouritsen, author of Sushi: Food for the Eye, the Body and the Soul.

A feast for the eyes and the mouth. Tuna swim long distances, but their muscles are still soft and tender.i A feast for the eyes and the mouth. Tuna swim long distances, but their muscles are still soft and tender.

Kyodo /Landov "Fish are so soft. You can stick your finger through their muscles," he says. "Try doing that with a chicken or cow. Fish muscle is very different than that in land animals."

Why? Because fish can afford to be lazier than terrestrial animals. Fish essentially float all the time. So their muscles don't work constantly to fight gravity.

"Fish don't have to support their body weight," Mouritsen says, "so their muscle fibers are shorter and less tough than those in land animals." The same goes for the connective tissue holding the muscle fibers together: It's delicate and weak.

The result? Fish has a silky, smooth texture when it's raw, and a flaky, light texture when it's cooked.

By contrast, "Land animals — like ourselves — are always working to keep themselves upright and keep their shape," Mouritsen says, so our muscle fibers are thicker, tougher and firmer.

The result is a ropy, chewy — and less appetizing — texture when the meat is raw. Cooking softens the connective tissue in meat and improves its texture (it also makes it juicy and flavorful).

In general, the more a muscle works, the tougher, more sinuous it gets, Mouritsen writes in his book. This idea explains why the belly of the tuna, known as otoro, is exceptionally soft: The belly of the fish is the laziest muscle of them all.

One fish, two fish, white fish, red fish: Muscles that depend on oxygen tend to be red, while those that don't are white. Salmon flesh is orange because of the food the fish eat.i One fish, two fish, white fish, red fish: Muscles that depend on oxygen tend to be red, while those that don't are white. Salmon flesh is orange because of the food the fish eat.

Kake/Flickr.com "In contrast, those muscles that are more active in a tuna, say the ones in its fins and tails, are a bit more chewier than other muscles," he says.

Under a microscope, fish, chicken and other meat muscles look similar, with long, parallel fibers, like ropes, stretched out and tied together.

But when you zoom in a little closer, the fish muscles look like the Kate Moss of the bunch: Their fibers are slimmer, shorter and more delicate than the others.

The muscle properties of fish also explain the rainbow of colors you see at a sushi bar.

"Fish that are constantly on the move — say, a tuna — have muscles that are always working and burning carbohydrates aerobically," Mouritsen says.

The muscles need oxygen to make energy. And the molecule that carries oxygen to muscle contains iron. Guess what color iron is in the fish? Red.

In contrast, fish that mostly hang out in one place or on the bottom of the ocean — say, for instance, flounder — have muscles that don't rely on oxygen to create energy. No oxygen means no iron to carry it, which means the muscles tend to be white. (Of course, most fish have a mixture of these two type of muscles and thus can look red, white or pink.)

So what about the pinkish-orange color of salmon? That's a special case, Mouritsen says.

"The coloring is due to what salmon eat: shellfish that are enriched with a pigment that's related to carotene in carrots, called astaxanthin."

This pigment creates the characteristic bluish-gray or green color of raw shrimp and crabs. The molecule turns bright pink or orange when the salmon eats the shellfish or we cook it.


TOPICS: Food
KEYWORDS: rawfish; sushi; sushimi
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1 posted on 05/24/2014 5:10:03 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

Guess I just don’t have the refined palate necessary to enjoy this stuff.

Out here on the farm, we call this bait...


2 posted on 05/24/2014 5:13:14 PM PDT by PubliusMM (RKBA; a matter of fact, not opinion. 01-20-2016; I pray we make it that long.)
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To: nickcarraway

It’s the Wassabi and soy sauce, I like it on raw beef too.


3 posted on 05/24/2014 5:13:56 PM PDT by eastforker (Cruz for steam in 2016)
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To: nickcarraway

It’s okay even good but I don’t eat it often and you buy a little bit and it cost a lot.


4 posted on 05/24/2014 5:15:54 PM PDT by BeadCounter
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To: nickcarraway

Nasty crap


5 posted on 05/24/2014 5:16:21 PM PDT by bigbob (The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly. Abraham Lincoln)
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To: eastforker

Oh and let’s not forget the thin sliced ginger to go along with it.That and a cols Asahi lager.


6 posted on 05/24/2014 5:16:28 PM PDT by eastforker (Cruz for steam in 2016)
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To: nickcarraway

I love sushi, but the mention of Obama cost me my appetite.


7 posted on 05/24/2014 5:17:33 PM PDT by RoosterRedux
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To: nickcarraway

Don’t let anyone tell you that Blue Marlin is tender and soft. We tried to eat some marlin on time and there is a tough membrane every 1/2”. There is more than one reason it is a game fish.


8 posted on 05/24/2014 5:19:31 PM PDT by Ditter
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To: nickcarraway

I had never tired sushi and didn’t want to but my Daughter and S-I-L bought some at a Publix. I decided to just try it and it wasn’t bad but not good enough that I would order it myself.


9 posted on 05/24/2014 5:20:33 PM PDT by yarddog (Romans 8: verses 38 and 39. "For I am persuaded".)
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To: nickcarraway

I found your post interesting...


10 posted on 05/24/2014 5:21:35 PM PDT by babygene ( .)
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To: yarddog

Our local Marsh Supermarket has freshly prepared sushi that’s really pretty good.

$6.95 an gets you 12 pieces of California roll or a few other varieties.

I keep telling naysayers that sushi doesn’t necessarily have to have raw fish in it. Veggies, cream cheese, fake crabmeat, etc.

I can do tuna ans salmon, but I draw the line at eel


11 posted on 05/24/2014 5:32:30 PM PDT by digger48
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To: yarddog

Like most things, it is an acquired taste. It helps to have some sake on hand.


12 posted on 05/24/2014 5:36:35 PM PDT by SamAdams76
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To: nickcarraway

I think it has something to do with the radiation from the Fukushima reactor. It just adds to the flavor and gives you that warm “glow” inside. Nothing else come close.


13 posted on 05/24/2014 5:37:43 PM PDT by Lake Living
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To: nickcarraway

Conceptually very simple, with a wide variety of flavors, and servings are innately small which lets you try a lot of different stuff in one trip. Also very good social food.


14 posted on 05/24/2014 5:37:59 PM PDT by discostu (Seriously, do we no longer do "phrasing"?!)
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To: digger48

Eh? Eel is yummy!


15 posted on 05/24/2014 5:38:22 PM PDT by null and void (When was the last time you heard anyone say: "It's a free country"?)
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To: yarddog

Grocery store sushi is an abomination. Part of the idea is that it is prepared and then you eat it just a few minutes later. When it sits around the flavors blur, things toughen up, the rice goes from sticky to gummy. Yuck.


16 posted on 05/24/2014 5:40:40 PM PDT by discostu (Seriously, do we no longer do "phrasing"?!)
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To: nickcarraway

Neanderthal man loved raw animal meat. A main advantage to homo sapiens was a more healthy gut by cooking, and eating more of the other stuff too. I suspect neanderthal would like lots of raw fish...


17 posted on 05/24/2014 5:41:27 PM PDT by C210N (When people fear government there is tyranny; when government fears people there is liberty)
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To: SamAdams76
Like most things, it is an acquired taste. It helps to have some sake on hand.

I always have sake with my sushi/sashimi, but after a few swigs, I definitely would fail to have it on my hand - it would slip off. :-)

18 posted on 05/24/2014 5:42:28 PM PDT by COBOL2Java (I'm a Christian, pro-life, pro-gun, Reaganite. The GOP hates me. Why should I vote for them?)
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To: PubliusMM

Good sushi is very very good. But good sushi is expensive.

Its the essence of fish.


19 posted on 05/24/2014 5:42:55 PM PDT by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: null and void
Eh? Eel is yummy!

Hooray for Unagi!

20 posted on 05/24/2014 5:43:53 PM PDT by COBOL2Java (I'm a Christian, pro-life, pro-gun, Reaganite. The GOP hates me. Why should I vote for them?)
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To: discostu

Have to agree with you. Publix sushi is safer than most though.


21 posted on 05/24/2014 5:44:46 PM PDT by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: nickcarraway
Muscles that depend on oxygen tend to be red, while those that don't are white.

Are they suggesting that white muscles don't need oxygen?
22 posted on 05/24/2014 5:46:20 PM PDT by RandallFlagg (Uninstall Fascist Firefox. Get Pale Moon.)
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To: driftdiver

We had an Albertsons we could get OK sushi at. Largely because the sushi lady took a liking to my wife, if she saw her looking at the tray she’d come in with the “oh no, no, you wait, I make special”. Sadly she moved on.


23 posted on 05/24/2014 5:48:32 PM PDT by discostu (Seriously, do we no longer do "phrasing"?!)
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To: All

Sushi is not raw fish. Sashimi is raw fish.


24 posted on 05/24/2014 5:48:57 PM PDT by SoCal Pubbie
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To: digger48
I can do tuna ans salmon, but I draw the line at eel

My fave sushi is "Unagi," cooked eel with a mild sweetish sauce and little bit of cucumber. Try it, you'll like it.

Eel is always cooked for sushi, so it's always free of the grungies that are sometimes found in raw sushi.

25 posted on 05/24/2014 5:52:24 PM PDT by Veto! (OpInions freely dispensed as advice)
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To: SoCal Pubbie

Sushi is the Rice
Sashimi is the Fish

I get into arguments with people who think the sushi is the fish...:)


26 posted on 05/24/2014 5:55:27 PM PDT by libertarian27 (FreeRepublic Cookbooks 2011 & 2012 - Click Profile)
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To: PubliusMM

Similar here. No cookee, no eatee.


27 posted on 05/24/2014 5:55:41 PM PDT by TomGuy
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To: libertarian27
Sushi (すし, 寿司, 鮨?) is a Japanese food consisting of cooked vinegared rice (鮨飯 sushi-meshi?) combined with other ingredients (ネタ neta?), seafood, vegetables and sometimes tropical fruits. Ingredients and forms of sushi presentation vary widely, but the ingredient which all sushi have in common is rice (also referred to as shari (しゃり?) or sumeshi (酢飯?)).
28 posted on 05/24/2014 5:57:57 PM PDT by SoCal Pubbie
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To: nickcarraway

A friend of mine calls it ‘squishy’.....well when I started working for a Japanese Corp. eating sushi was just par for the course. Really like it though-—as long as its fresh and done right. I loves me some dragon and rainbow sushi rolls.


29 posted on 05/24/2014 5:58:55 PM PDT by tflabo (Truth or Tyranny)
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To: discostu
Conceptually very simple, with a wide variety of flavors, and servings are innately small which lets you try a lot of different stuff in one trip. Also very good social food.

yes--all of those things... and it is fresh and clean and pretty too...

30 posted on 05/24/2014 6:04:39 PM PDT by latina4dubya (when i have money i buy books... if i have anything left, i buy 6-inch heels and a bottle of wine...)
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To: PubliusMM
Out here on the farm, we call this bait...

really? even salmon and tuna?

31 posted on 05/24/2014 6:05:31 PM PDT by latina4dubya (when i have money i buy books... if i have anything left, i buy 6-inch heels and a bottle of wine...)
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To: nickcarraway

So... what I am taking away from this is being lazy is good.


32 posted on 05/24/2014 6:06:48 PM PDT by ican'tbelieveit
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To: PubliusMM

You need to get off the farm more. Sushi is very good for you the way farm fresh eggs and home grown veggies are.


33 posted on 05/24/2014 6:07:00 PM PDT by C. Edmund Wright (Do NOT suffer fools gladly…and message boards are full contact arenas)
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To: libertarian27

Sushi is also the general term for the entire genre of sishimi, ngiri, sushi, etc...


34 posted on 05/24/2014 6:07:48 PM PDT by C. Edmund Wright (Do NOT suffer fools gladly…and message boards are full contact arenas)
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To: digger48

Around here several of the sushi places deep fry salmon and cream cheese roll in a tempura batter.


35 posted on 05/24/2014 6:08:38 PM PDT by ican'tbelieveit
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To: SoCal Pubbie
Sushi (すし, 寿司, 鮨?)

I was just looking this up in my several Japanese dictionaries but could not find the kanji, 寿司 , which is the most common form.

Looking online, I find the explanation that this is just a fancy phonetic form, SU SHI, or すし in the phonetic hiragana syllabary, and without a semantic basis, except the first character has propitious intimations of good luck, etc. so it is essentially a marketing creation.

The kanji, 鮨 , has the meaning of "delicious fish".

36 posted on 05/24/2014 6:08:53 PM PDT by dr_lew
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To: discostu

The best fish ever was fresh mahi-mahi sashimi prepared by a trained Japanese sushi chef within hours after it was caught. I was totally not prepared to eat it, let alone like it. It was heavenly and tasted exactly like rare beef tenderloin.

By the way, the chef’s wife was a lab tech who worked with infectious diseases and she would not have eaten it or encouraged others to do so if she was the least bit concerned.

I prefer sashimi to sushi. Just not that into the nori.


37 posted on 05/24/2014 6:09:04 PM PDT by reformedliberal
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To: nickcarraway

we can’t get enough parasites?


38 posted on 05/24/2014 6:10:44 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (Gone Galt; Not averse to Going Bronson.)
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To: nickcarraway

I have a problem with the thesis of this….most fish are far stronger pound for pound than humans - so this soft muscle lazy thing to me does not make sense.


39 posted on 05/24/2014 6:11:06 PM PDT by C. Edmund Wright (Do NOT suffer fools gladly…and message boards are full contact arenas)
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To: nickcarraway
In general, the more a muscle works, the tougher, more sinuous it gets

Then I'd make a tender meal.

40 posted on 05/24/2014 6:12:50 PM PDT by ConservingFreedom (A goverrnment strong enough to impose your standards is strong enough to ban them.)
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To: reformedliberal

That mahi sashimi sounds awesome…never had that. A couple months ago I did have the best tuna I’ve ever had, and I’ve had great tuna sashimi (tekka don) hundreds of times. The restauranteur who served it has been buying fresh seafood for 40 years, and said it was the most amazing fish he’s ever bought for his places. I can’t even describe how it tasted.


41 posted on 05/24/2014 6:13:34 PM PDT by C. Edmund Wright (Do NOT suffer fools gladly…and message boards are full contact arenas)
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To: null and void

Sushi eels disappearing, due to over-eeling. (are they fish, or what?)

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/food-for-men/end-of-unagi-eel-sushi-15067415


42 posted on 05/24/2014 6:14:44 PM PDT by Veto! (OpInions freely dispensed as advice)
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To: nickcarraway

There’s a fine, old sushi bar here, where I was introduced over two decades ago. It’s edible art, the flavors and textures are very distinctive. For the uninitiated, not all of it is raw. Go with someone who knows their way around the menu, order a few cooked or smoked examples like seared sashimi beef or Alaska Roll (smoked salmon). Slowly try a few other things. Good, fresh sushi-grade tuna is not fishy at all, it’s rather sweet in fact. That said, there are still a few places I won’t go, lol, most involving identifiable tentacles with suction cups still attached. Just cannot appreciate that and would just rather not even see it.


43 posted on 05/24/2014 6:14:50 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: COBOL2Java

Unagi! Oshi oshi!


44 posted on 05/24/2014 6:14:50 PM PDT by headsonpikes (Mass murder and cannibalism are the twin sacraments of socialism - "Who-whom?"-Lenin)
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To: ican'tbelieveit

That’s for the tourists who really don’t know what real sushi/sashimi is like.


45 posted on 05/24/2014 6:15:13 PM PDT by C. Edmund Wright (Do NOT suffer fools gladly…and message boards are full contact arenas)
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To: ican'tbelieveit

That’s for the tourists who really don’t know what real sushi/sashimi is like.


46 posted on 05/24/2014 6:15:27 PM PDT by C. Edmund Wright (Do NOT suffer fools gladly…and message boards are full contact arenas)
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To: libertarian27

Sashimi is a style, it can be beef as well as fish.


47 posted on 05/24/2014 6:17:09 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: latina4dubya

The social aspect is important….and they way you feel after a meal of sashimi is incredible. There is a real sense that what you just ate was exactly what your body needed.


48 posted on 05/24/2014 6:17:17 PM PDT by C. Edmund Wright (Do NOT suffer fools gladly…and message boards are full contact arenas)
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To: RandallFlagg
Are they suggesting that white muscles don't need oxygen?

Sounds racist!
49 posted on 05/24/2014 6:17:55 PM PDT by PA Engineer (Liberate America from the Occupation Media.)
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To: RegulatorCountry

In South Korea they have a dish where they take a live Octopus, cut it up, and serve it with noodles still moving.

It takes the flavor of the sauce. You have to make sure and chew the suction cups well or they can stick to your throat.


50 posted on 05/24/2014 6:19:12 PM PDT by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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