Nigiri and Sashimi are two of the most popular Japanese dishes in the US. Although most people in the US still find it hard to imagine eating something that has raw fish as the main ingredient, these two delicacies have had a decent following among seafood lovers in America.
There are numerous differences between Sashimi and Nigiri, but one obvious difference is in the price. Generally, Sashimi always turns out to be the more expensive of the two. So, why does it cost more?
Considering different factors that I looked into, Sashimi is more expensive than Nigiri because it uses high quality and more quantity of expensive fish and costlier garnishing ingredients than Nigiri. Sashimi also takes more time and effort to prepare and has a higher perceived value than Nigiri.
There is much more to Sashimi and Nigiri pricing differences that you probably didn’t know. So, why don’t we dive in together to dissect these two exotic cuisines?
Sashimi vs. Nigiri
Most Americans can’t tell Sashimi and Nigiri apart. However, there are distinct differences between the two popular Japanese dishes. These differences also contribute to their pricing disparities.
What is Sashimi?
The word “Sashimi” simply translates to “pierced meat” in Japanese. Sashimi basically consists of thinly sliced raw meat, mostly seafood and fish, but sometimes other meats.
Sashimi is also often confused with Sushi, although the two are pretty different. For one, Sushi only uses fish and seafood, while Sashimi can consist of other meats like chicken. Sushi also comprises meat and rice, while Sashimi only uses meat.
There are several types of Sashimi based on the main ingredient. They include:
- Maguro: Made form bluefin tuna.
- Hamachi: Made from yellowtail.
- Saba: Uses mackerel.
- Sake: Made from salmon.
- Tai: Uses Seabream.
What is Nigiri?
Nigiri is a hand-modeled type of Sushi where the rice is compacted onto the fish’s surface. The topping (typically fish) is pressed by hand on the rice. In fact, the word “Nigiri” in Japanese means “hard-pressed Sushi.”
The stickiness of the rice and the topping’s moisture combine to compact the two ingredients. Sometimes, the chef might place a bit of wasabi between the rice and the fish, and garnishes like ginger or minced scallions are common atop the fish.
Fish used in Nigiri is almost always raw and includes expensive fish flesh from albacore, salmon, tuna, and yellowtail. Another popular topping is fatty tuna, which comes from a bluefin tuna’s belly section.
Sashimi Vs Nigiri Price Comparison
Since Sashimi and Nigiri are so different, their prices are also different. Here are their average prices in the US.
How Much Does Sashimi Cost in the Us?
Sashimi can be really expensive, especially when served in high-end restaurants. Typically, you can expect to pay between $5 and $20 for conveyer belt Sushi. In contrast, a serving of Sashimi at a high-end restaurant costs upwards of $40 per serving.
How Much Is Nigiri in the US?
Compared to Sashimi, Nigiri is much more affordable. A typical restaurant serving of Nigiri costs anywhere between $5 and $10.
Why is Sashimi Costlier than Nigiri?
Although there’s a clear difference between Nigiri and Sashimi, the difference in their prices is still astonishing. However, there are a few reasons why Sashimi is more expensive. Below are some of the most prominent reasons I came across.
Amount of Meat Used
Both dishes use fish as an ingredient. However, Nigiri is mainly made of vinegared rice, which is cheap and is topped up with some fish.
On the other hand, Sashimi is purely made of chunks of fish (or other meats), making it more expensive to produce.
In addition to using a lot of fish/meat, Sashimi also requires high-quality, expensive fish like mackerel and bluefin tuna. On the other hand, Nigiri uses more common fish like salmon and ordinary tuna.
It’s also important to note that fish prices spike as soon as the winter hits. This largely contributes to the fluctuating prices we see in the seafood market.
Time and Effort Spent
Making Sashimi is a lengthy and complicated process. For instance, the anglers have to catch the fish to be used as the main ingredient.
Also, compared to Nigiri, the chef also spends a lot of time working on the presentation and serving of Sashimi.
Of course, since Sashimi uses more and better quality fish, it tastes better than Nigiri. Additionally, sometimes the slices that don’t meet the high standards for Sashimi are used as filler for Nigiri.
Some Sushi restaurants have also been known to use vinegar to cover less than desirable cuts of meat in Nigiri. With Sashimi, each slice has to be perfect.
It’s important to note that Sushi bars and restaurants are businesses. More people buy Nigiri than Sashimi. Those who order Sashimi can afford it.
Therefore, restaurant owners charge even more for Sashimi because customers hold it to high standards and believe it should be expensive.
What is the Most Expensive Sashimi?
According to the Robb Report (Singapore), a 610 lbs bluefin tuna was sold for $4 million to Kiyoshi Kimura, the self-proclaimed “King of Tuna,” in 2018. Kiyoshi later served the rare fish at his restaurant as Maguro Sashimi.
Although the price per serving is unknown, it’s definitely in the tens of thousands. More surprisingly, this is not an isolated incident.
Bluefin tuna has become increasingly rare, and restaurants charge eye-watering amounts for Maguro.
Is Expensive Sashimi Worth It?
As we’ve already established, Sashimi can be really expensive, especially when it’s made from rare fish. So, is it worth the crazy price tags?
The short answer is yes! Sashimi is delicious. A high-quality serving in a good restaurant is not only tasty but also highly nutritious.
Compared to Nigiri and other types of Sushi, it lets you enjoy the unique flavor of raw fish without distracting it with rice or too much vinegar. Therefore, if you can afford the $40 or $50 per serving, go ahead and enjoy some Sashimi at your local Sushi restaurant.
However, the extremely expensive Sashimi (especially Maguro), which costs $1000 or more per serving is just worth it if you are one of those people with endless wealth that makes you blind to price tags. It might have an exquisite taste, but that’s just too much money for one meal.
Where to Buy Sashimi and Nigiri in the US
Sushi is quite a popular dish in the US. As a result, you can enjoy a serving of Nigiri or Sashimi at your local Sushi restaurant. That said, if you want the best quality Sashimi, you need to go to a high-end restaurant that specializes in Japanese cuisine.
If you don’t fancy eating out, you can always order from online fish markets or shop in a physical market.