Raw fish has been a delicacy for thousands of years. Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, praises the thinnest slivers of uncooked meat and seafood called kuai in his writings. The Japanese first nibbled narezushi, or fermented fish preserved with salt, during the Bronze Age, when farmers were just beginning to grow rice. (You’ve no doubt come into contact with one of its modern iterations, the California roll.) Hawaiians have poke (pronounced poh-kay), and Latin Americans have ceviche, which originates on the Pacific coast of Peru. The lemons and limes essential to the Nikkei marinade called leche de tigre, the bedrock of tiraditos and escabeche, arrived with Spanish and Portuguese traders—centuries before “fusion” cuisine was a thing.
Handling is crucial with all forms of raw fish, which should be chilled until preparation and serving. Buy only the freshest seafood—sushi-grade tuna, salmon, scallops, etc.—from a trusted fishmonger. Or better yet, go straight to the source: producers like Peeko Oysters on Long Island or Island Creek Oysters in Massachusetts. Don’t forget to recycle the shells.
Requiring minimal prepwork, these delectable starters and light mains are culinary keepers, so bookmark them or keep them in your recipe binder for inspiration.
Here is our favorite recipe for ahi tuna poke, one of the essential dishes of native Hawaiian cuisine. Get the recipe >
Instead of mignonette, bright citrus juice and fresh herbs pep up these oysters served with seared pineapple. Bird’s eye chilies give the bivalves a kick, too. Get the recipe >
The Turkish dried chili called urfa biber adds heat to this briny raw-bar staple. Get the recipe >
Crudo means raw in Italian. This refreshing recipe from Puglia calls for whole gamberi rossi, the region’s large red shrimp, and seasons them with cider vinegar, shallots, and a dollop of crème fraîche. Get the recipe >
Substituting the traditional chiles with mezcal adds a smoky note to these savory scallops. Get the recipe >