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Anybody care for horsemeat sushi?

By Casey Baseel

Although sushi is often thought to mean raw fish, that’s not actually what the word means. The name actually refers to vinegared rice, and some varieties of sushi don’t contain any fish at all.

"Kappa maki," for example, are rolls of seaweed, rice, and cucumber, while "narizushi" is made with rice and fried tofu. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re in the mood for non-seafood sushi but also don’t want to go vegetarian, you can try horse sushi, like we recently did.

Tokyo’s Ebisu neighborhood is sort of the sophisticated cousin to loud and trendy Shibuya. Today, it’s a popular hangout for young professionals looking to leave the college bar scene behind, but Ebisu’s roots are a little more blue-collar. The area was once the site of the Yebisu Beer brewery, and just two minutes’ walk from Ebisu station there used to be a bustling market.

The market is now long-gone, and in its place you’ll find the Ebisu Yokocho, a collection of 21 unique restaurants and bars huddled together under a single roof. Inside, mouth-watering smells drift out of the numerous kitchens and mingle in the air with the laughter of customers sitting within an arm’s length of diners at different establishments.

Towards the back of Ebisu Yokocho you’ll come to Nikuzushi, or “Meat Sushi,” which serves exactly what its name promises. In particular, the restaurant has earned a reputation among Japan’s gourmet subset that goes wild for horsemeat.

While you can order a la carte, we instead opted for the chef’s recommendation of eight pieces of horsemeat sushi for 1,600 yen, which saved us 300 yen compared to what separate orders would have cost us. Nikuzushi employs the same naming conventions that are used with tuna for its horsemeat, and our set came with two pieces each of "akami" (lean meat), "harami" (belly), "nakaochi" (back), and "negi toro" (diced fatty meat with green onions wrapped with seaweed).

Each cut had its own unique charms, whether the chewy "nakaochi," firm "akami," subtle char of the seared "harami," or flavorful kick of the "negi toro." What they all shared, though, was an exquisite deliciousness, accented by the meat juices mixing with the warm vinegared rice.

The southern island of Kysuhu is a major producer of the horsemeat Japan eats. However, in talking to the owner of Nikuzushi, Mr Nakamura, we found out that most of the restaurant’s horsemeat is imported from Canada. Not only does this help to keep costs down and allow Nikuzushi to serve its fare at the reasonable prices it does, Nakamura tells us that in comparison to domestic sources, horsemeat from Canada is leaner, with a less gamey taste that goes especially well with vinegared rice.

Horse isn’t the only meaty choice for diners at Nikuzushi, though, which also has amazing beef. We tried a cut called "sashitoro."

Seared by Nakamura right before our eyes, the 680-yen cut is one of the pricier items on the menu. Juicy and so tender it melts in your mouth, it’s definitely worth that much, if not more, though.

Even among Japanese people, not everyone regularly eats horsemeat, and we understand if you have similar reservations. If you feel, though, that even after the extensive equestrian contributions to human society in the fields of transportation, agriculture, and gambling, that the animals should also nourish us directly, Nikuzushi is a fine place to dip your toes in the world of gourmet horsemeat.

Restaurant information Nikuzushi / 肉寿司 Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Ebisu 1-7-4, Ebisu Yokocho-nai 住所 東京都渋谷区恵比寿1-7-4 恵比寿横丁内 Open 5 p.m.-5 a.m. Closed on Sundays and holidays

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Seven reasons to eat sushi (other than because it tastes great) -- Japan’s Top Five Favorite Sushi Toppings -- How to Behave at a Sushi Restaurant: Tips from Japanese Etiquette Guides

© RocketNews24

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As someone with a special place in my heart for horses, I encourage anyone who eats horse to button their lip when people of other nations eat dog. I am sure both are delicious. So when is the dog sushi coming?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

@_Jack I've been in restaurants where my dining companions ordered whale and horse meats. I didn't join them, but I didn't judge them either.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Why not Tessa? Too many expats pander to cultural relativism in Japan. Cultural exceptionalism or whatever Japan sees itself as is no excuse to dodge critical thinking about cultural practices and kicking controversial traditional dining habits.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

I've tried both horse and dog - the dog while I was in South Korea. I would choose horse 10 out of 10 times over dog. It was very tender, but when eating it I couldn't get the image of cute dogs out of my head which really ruined the experience. I don't judge those who eat and enjoy it though. I really don't think that you can pick and choose which animals you eat due to them being "cute" or "smart". If you eat pork and beef you should be open to eating horse and dog. Not saying you have to eat it, but not judge those who do.

Always surprised that so much of the horse meat comes from Canada, as I've never seen it available anywhere there.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The horse I have eaten has always been fresh and delicious.

3 ( +4 / -1 )


0 ( +4 / -4 )

Tim_FoxSep. 19, 2014 - 09:01AM JST Why not Tessa? Too many expats pander to cultural relativism in Japan. Cultural exceptionalism or whatever Japan sees itself as is no excuse to dodge critical thinking about cultural practices and kicking controversial traditional dining habits.

You do realise that eating horse meat is not limited to Japan, don't you? There's a hugely long list of countries where it is eaten, such as Indonesia, China, Mongolia,Tonga, Philippines, Austria, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Canada, Chile, etc...

Your argument is invalid and disrespectful. I can understand that some people with limited international experience might be shocked by practices in other countries that they consider "abnormal", but that doesn't mean that your cultural background is normal. Your idea that eating horse is "controversial" merely means that YOU do not approve.

I've eaten horse once, and I was underwhelmed. It was expensive, the taste was similar to most game meats, and for my money I'd rather eat venison or veal.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Nay hey hey hey

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've eaten basashi (raw horse) a few times. It's actually really good. Never tried dog, but I have no moral objections to it. If/when the chance comes up, I'll try it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Many Americans find horsemeat offensive to consume. However the French, Bulgarians, Italians, Swiss, Japanese and Mongolians are passionate horsemeat lovers. Horsemeat is one of the healthiest meats for human consumption. The meat is lean, high in protein, low in fat, iron rich, and abundant in vitamin B. It contains fewer calories, and is significantly high in omega-3 fatty acid concentration. Moreover horses are not susceptible to disease such BCE, swine or bird flu. Therefore horsemeat is one of the healthiest meats available and eating horsemeat is good for you.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

JackSep. 19, 2014 - 07:51AM JST As someone with a special place in my heart for horses, I encourage anyone who eats horse to button their lip when >people of other nations eat dog. I am sure both are delicious. So when is the dog sushi coming?

Americans culturally have an objection to eating horse. But horse is eaten in parts of Europe. In fact the biggest export destination of horse meat for the United States is France. Yes, we even export it! Even Whale meat is eaten in Scandinavian countries. But I'm not aware of any western nation that eats dog, Dog meat is eaten in Korea, parts of China and Philippines, Vietnam, etc., The Japanese don't consider dog to be edible culturally so you won't be seeing dogmeat sushi in your lifetime. I have had horsemeat it's very good. Anyone who likes beef will like it, Although it can be sold throughout Japan only certain prefectures such as Kumamoto and Nagano (I think) have laws that allow it to be slaughtered and processed for commercial purposes.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Honestly, after all the horse meat for beed scandals, I'd be surprised if any of us has not eaten horse at one time of another, lol.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Horse is quite tasty, especially in Kumamoto. Dog, less so. And I've never tasted dog meat that wasn't cooked with loads of heavy sauces or flavoring, so it's hard to really know the taste. Horsemeat, though, is usually served sashimi style. When I am in America, I cringe while watching people eat Big Macs, but I don't judge them!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

OssanAmerica said: "But I'm not aware of any western nation that eats dog,"

How about France (until fairly recently) and Switzerland (still going on today)? Western enough for you? And why the "But"? Is there some kind of significance about what westerners choose not to eat?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Readers, dog meat is not relevant to this discussion.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

All this talk of the 'unique charms' of slices of horse meat - we're talking about bits of corpse. Zombie food.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Of course it's a corpse. Good luck trying to eat a live horse! Probably get kicked in the chops. I think zombies prefer live food actually, but I'm not an expert.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think even in Japan, eating horse meat is considered a bit unusual unless you live in certain parts of Kyushu (around Kumamoto and Oita), Nagano Prefecture, and the Tohoku region of Japan. Even then, it could be a bit of an acquired taste, in my humble opinion.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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