How Salmon Became One of the Best Sushi

Salmon: From Cooked to Raw

For the longest time, salmon has never made an appearance in sushi bars in Japan. The Japanese do not eat raw salmon. The fish is known as a carrier of parasites especially at the end of their lives when they have become weakened, furiously expending their energy swimming upstream to lay their eggs in home waters. It was too risky to serve salmon raw. Some sushi chefs in California tried curing the fish to kill possible parasites but it destroyed the delicate taste and texture of the salmon.

Back in the 80s, a Scandinavian country had a huge salmon problem. Norway had too much salmon, tons of the fish were filling up industrial freezers already. The government was desperate to sell it to the one country half-way around the world that eats raw fish – Japan. Japan didn’t want it even though Norwegian salmon is parasite-free. But Japan’s long sushi history does not involve eating raw salmon. It took some time to convince the Japanese.

When one company agreed to buy its first 5,000 tons of Norwegian frozen salmon for cheap, it slowly made headway in the country. Salmon sushi was just buttery; the creamy, melt-in-your-mouth, very soft meat was simply irresistible.

Thanks to the improvement of freezing technology, raw salmon in Japan is now safer to eat. Freezing kills the parasites inside and the fish is thawed before being served raw. Food poisoning by consuming raw salmon in Japan is very rare. The knowledge and techniques of Japan’s fishing industry makes the consumption of raw salmon safe for most consumers. The Japanese official recommendation for “fresh” (intended to be eaten untreated by heat) salmon is: “Freeze at -20C/-4F for at least 24 hours.” However, just for the record, most of salmon eaten raw in Japan is imported from Norway, more fatty and affordable.

Hence, this was how salmon, once off-limits as sushi, became the most popular nigiri in Japan now.

I Love Salmon at I Love Sushi in Seattle

Love our salmon nigiri and salmon sashimi at I Love Sushi. Come experience your salmon and other sushi delights in our Seattle restaurant on Lake Union and wonder what we’ll be missing if we’ve never tried raw salmon.