The Art of Ike Jime: How to Properly Kill a Sushi-Grade Fish

Categories: Chef Chat

In this week's cover story, I examine the many reasons that sushi-grade fish isn't pulled from the Gulf of Mexico. When it comes to sushi, you can pretty much forget about SLGT'ing in Houston -- or the rest of Texas, for that matter.

One of the most significant reasons that Gulf fish can't be considered sushi-grade is the way that it's caught and killed. The Japanese method for killing fish -- and ensuring that their flesh is sushi-grade or sashimi-grade -- is called ike jime. And you won't find any Gulf fishermen practicing it right now.

Ike jime is relatively obscure in the United States, despite that fact that almost all fish are processed this way in Japan. Throughout the course of interviewing many chefs on ike jime, I did find a handful that were immediately familiar with the technique -- including Brandon Fisch.

In the video above (which is not for the faint of heart), Fisch demonstrates how to properly ike jime a fish. In this case, it's a summer flounder or fluke which was purchased at Super H Mart.

Across YouTube, you'll find a few other videos -- albeit not many -- of chefs and fishermen haphazardly demonstrating their own versions of ike jime. Here are some examples:

This video shows almost all of the ike jime steps save the spiking of the fish's brain. Regardless, look at how much blood flowed from the fish after being processed. That's what you're looking for in a properly bled-out, sushi-grade fish.

Here, you can see a fisherman "dressing" a wild-caught steelhead salmon. Again, no spiking is shown, and neither is the bleed-out. This is a pretty painless one to watch, if you're sensitive to gore.

This is the video from chefs Dave Arnold and Nils Noren that I reference in the feature story. You can see immediately when the fish is submerged in its ice bath that the blood flows out exceptionally quickly; the heart should still be pumping enough to expel the blood, and the cold water helps draw it out as well.

Last but not least, this truly excellent video from the Tsukiji Fish Market shows a Japanese chef ike jime-ing and serving mackerel to his customers, with that all important head-spike at around the 1:25 mark. Beware twitching fish in this one.

Want to learn more about which Gulf fish could be used for sushi, without the blood and guts? Head to our interactive feature: Explore an Ocean of Possibilities.



Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords
My Voice Nation Help
8 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Ben
Ben

That is not a mackerel in that last video...that is eel.

Rocky's Daddy
Rocky's Daddy

Good on ya, Ben  In Japanese eel is u-na-gi.   It is usually killed at the restaurant just before grilling, so maybe that is not exactly a fish market.   The guts are served separately, and the liver is the bitterest you could ever imagine

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

At the Jagalchi fish market in Busan, Korea (and every other fish market I went to in Korea), every stall has its own "restaurant" where they'd prepare the live fish you'd just bought.

Jayrascoe
Jayrascoe

Oops, commented on the wrong article.

Jayrascoe
Jayrascoe

Really enjoyed this article. Always wondered what "sushi grade" really meant. As long as sushi restaurants aren't restricted or required to serve only "sushi grade" fish, it won't be long before they discover that fresh gulf coast fish will serve their needs for a lower price, rather than fish shipped across the country from another coast that Japan approves of. It would be very interesting to compare these fish in a blind tasting. Sushi and sashimi no longer belongs to Japan exclusively, and I hope to see a Gulf Coast sushi restaurant one of these days.

Dave Foong
Dave Foong

Correct me if I'm wrong but as far as I know 'sushi-grade' is simply a recommendation by the FDA to freeze fish below a certain temperature (-20C or -35C, with time being a factor) to kill any present parasites in the fish. I'm willing to bet a lot of "sushi-grade" fish were not finished off via Ike Jime since 'sushi-grade' isn't really regulated. 

Also, regarding the Gulf, didn't PJ Stoops have a batch of red snapper from Galveston that were killed by Ike Jime? I'm thinking this could easily be done for any line caught fish.

Obscureharmony
Obscureharmony

I agree with Dave F. While there is very little to no FDA regulation on sashimi/sushi grade fish, I've understood that the sub temperature flash freezing of fish is what really makes it sushi/sashimi grade. Makes sense for killing most bacteria/parasites. I'd actually prefer it that way. Fresh unfrozen fish sounds dangerous unless you're going to cook it. These videos are a tad confusing in regards to explaining what most sushi/sashimi grade fish is.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...