|Sake and mirin, both Japanese rice wines, are common ingredients in sushi rice. Try our recipe for gravlax, Swedish salt-cured salmon!|
WHAT IS IT?
Sushi (寿司) is a Japanese dish of vinegared rice topped with other ingredients, noteably raw fish, seafood and/or vegetables.
There are various types of sushi. In America, the most familiar kinds are maki rolls (makizushi) which are rolled in sheets of nori (dried, pressed seaweed), and nigirizushi which are clumps of hand-formed sushi rice topped with fish, seafood, fresh vegetables and/or egg. Sliced raw fish alone is called sashimi, not sushi.
Common toppings for sushi are: saltwater eel (anago); amberjack (hamachi); mackerel (hikari-mono); tuna (kihada); fatty tuna (toro); salmon (sake); avocado; cucumber; cod (tara); shrimp (ebi); octopus (tako); squid (ika); sweet egg (tamago), and freshwater eel (unagi).
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HOW IS IT MADE?
Sushi is made with sushi rice — white, short-grained, Japanese rice mixed with a dressing made of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Commonly sake (酒) (pronounced: sa-ki), a traditional Japanese rice wine, or mirin (みりん), a sweet Japanese cooking wine, are added to the sushi rice. Sushi rice is served topped with fresh fish, seafood, egg, fresh vegetables or pickles and served alongside slices of tender pickled ginger, wasabi paste and soy sauce.
Sake is a traditional Japanese rice wine. Its color is clear to white. Sake has an alcohol content of 18-20%, compared to an alcohol content of 12% for typical grape wines. Mirin is a rice wine similar to sake, but very sweet. Mirin has an alcohol content of 14%. When called for, the typical sushi rice recipe uses ¼ cup of sake or mirin. Mirin and sake are stirred to the rice after cooking.
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WARNING LEVEL: HIGH
Seafood dishes are often ordered by Muslims who want to avoid eating non-zabiha meat. However, Muslims unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine may not be aware that sushi rice is commonly made with sake or mirin — both Japanese rice wines.
As we have learned in previous issues of Spotlight Halal, Muslims should not automatically assume seafood dishes to be halal. Clam Chowder often contains pork fat, and Shrimp Scampi is made with white wine.
Before ordering, ask your waiter to check if that restaurant uses sake or mirin in their sushi rice. Sake is almost never listed as an ingredient of sushi on restaurant menus.
AVOID sushi with deep-fried toppings such as deep fried soft shell crab ('spider roll'), fried tempura shrimp roll ('crunchy roll,' ebifurai-maki), and fried oyster rolls. These are likely deep-fried in the same fryer oil as tonkatsu — deep-fried, breaded pork chops.
SPECIAL NOTE: ALCOHOL & COOKING
AMNA classifies any food that is usually, but not always, made with an alcoholic product as ALCOHOL(?), even if it has been sautéed, simmered, baked or set on fire. The conventional wisdom accepted by just about everyone is that all the alcohol you add to a dish evaporates during cooking. It’s wrong.
In fact, according to a study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data Laboratory, you have to cook something for a good three hours to remove virtually all traces of alcohol.
[ Learn about Alcohol Cook Off Rates ]
SPECIAL NOTE: ARE SHRIMP, OCTOPUS & SQUID HALAL?
Sunni: These foods are halal food in the Malaki, Hanbali and Shafa'i Schools. Within the Hanafi School, there are varying opinions. Shi'a: These foods are not halal in the Jafari School.
ALCOHOL(?) is the rating that we give to any food that likely, but not always, contains alcohol or an alcohol-derived product. The "?" next to the wineglass on the icon prompts you to take a second look at foods that you otherwise may not have suspected. Ask informed questions of your waiter when dining out. Take a closer look at the Ingredients list on food packaging. We rate Sushi as ALCOHOL(?) because sake and mirin are common, traditional ingredients in sushi rice.
At SPOTLIGHT HALAL, our Guiding Principle is to provide the diverse Muslim communities living in Western countries with practical information about the wide range of food choices they face on a daily basis, but from an Islamic perspective. We don’t say a food is haram or halal; we say: "This food is made with alcohol and pork," or, "That food normally contains chicken." Whether or not you observe zabihah, our flexible and informative approach allows you to make informed decisions on what to buy and eat.