Raw fish was for a long time something I ate only in restaurants, where wine is effectively chosen for you by whoever designed the list. Then friends introduced me to the specialist Japanese Atari-Ya shops (in West Acton, Kingston, Finchley and Golders Green) and I got hooked on takeaway sashimi. It’s a short step to preparing your own – though I confess I always find it easier to buy it in, mainly because I am no good at sharpening knives. Either way, you end up in the situation of being free-range when it comes to wine.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to matching wine to sashimi is the condiment: soy sauce is salty and rich in umami while wasabi destroys almost everything in its path, alcohol included. Especially if you mistake it for guacamole and take a greedy, nostril- singeing, teaspoonful as I once did.
I have picked wines with the raw fish and moderate amounts of condiment in mind. While I usually steer you towards grapes or regions, here it’s particular styles that go best. You can work with fatter-feeling, aromatic whites such as malvasia, muscadet or gewürztraminer. Or go for lean, unoaked whites and reds, but always look for a bit of edge, minerality and purity. What do I mean? Wines that etch themselves into your mouth. A pinot noir is more likely to work if it’s German than if it’s from Central Otago. A barbera can work if it’s bright and a bit tart. If you pick a sauvignon blanc, choose one that is sharp and acidic with good minerality (good hunting grounds are South Africa and Awatere in Marlborough, New Zealand). The marine taste of albariño is also good. Or try pale rosé, koshu or a light daiginjo sake, or English sparkling wine, a drink that is never short on a bit of acidic thrust.
4 GOOD MATCHES:
The Exquisite Collection Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie 2014 France, 12% (Aldi, £5.99)
Muscadet is a classic dry wine, and is great with seafood and fish.The rounded texture meshes beautifully with the feel of the sashimi.
Sol Lucet Koshu 2013 Japan, 11.5% (M&S, £13)
In taste terms, this subtle white wine lies somewhere between pinot grigio and a gentle sauvignon blanc, with a hint of star fruit.
Vin de Pays de l’Ardeche Gamay 2014 France, 12% (M&S, £6)
A very light red made from the beaujolais grape, this reminds me of white and black pepper and wild strawberries.
Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé Brut NV England, 12.5% (Waitrose Cellar, £28.99)
This rosé from Cornwall has a delicate smell of wild red berries. A winner in every sense.
Our sashimi recipe
You can use virtually any fish for sashimi, but two of the most popular are salmon and the fattier cuts of tuna.The fish must be extremely fresh. A specialist Japanese fishmonger might offer sashimi-ready fillets so all you need to do is slice them. Otherwise, ask your fishmonger for long fillets at least 3cm thick, then trim them into blocks 5cm wide and 2cm thick.
sashimi-grade tuna or salmon about 150g per person
Japanese soy sauce
mooli (white radish) 1, spiralised or shredded
shiso leaves or micro leaves for decoration
Just before you are ready to eat, slice the fillet, against the grain into little rectangles about 2cm thick.The technique is to hold the fish firmly with one hand, position the knife beside your fingers to make an against-the-grain slice and pull the knife through from base to tip in a single stroke. Serve with the accompaniments, using the leaves to decorate.
PER SERVING: 204 KCALS|FAT 6.9G|SATURATES 1.8G CARBS 0G|FIBRE 0G|PROTEIN 35.5G|SALT 0.2G
This feature was published in June 2015
Photographs: Stuart Ovenden
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