What is Ebi Sushi and How to Make it?

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Reading a sushi menu opens up a world of fascinating ingredients, making you wonder what you’re ordering if you’re new to this type of food! Ebi sushi is one of those dishes that may seem foreign to you, leaving you puzzled over what ingredients are involved when making it.

Read on to find out what is Ebi sushi, how to make this culinary dish, and whether it should be cooked or served raw.

What is Ebi Sushi?

What is Ebi Sushi

Ebi is one of the most commonly used sushi ingredients in Japanese cuisine. It can be served in a number of ways and more often than not, most people who have ever eaten sushi, have already eaten this, one way or another.

Ebi refers to either shrimp or prawn. It actually refers to the preparation style used by Japanese chefs. A variety of shrimp species are used, depending on the sushi recipe. Ebi is most often butterflied (split open from the underside), before being skewered and then boiled. Thereafter, it’s prepared for sushi dishes.

How is Ebi Served?

Ebi can be served in a number of ways and these are some of the dishes you’ll find on most Japanese sushi menus using shrimp:

  • Tempura: Lightly battered and deep-fried shrimp. Japanese tiger prawns are the most popular seafood used in this recipe.
  • Nigiri: A small ball of rice, coated with wasabi, and topped with cooked seafood such as shrimp, on top.
  • Maki roll: Seafood, vegetables, and vinegared rice are combined and rolled up into a cylindrical shape inside grilled seaweed nori. Shrimp is commonly used in this dish and can be cooked or served raw.
  • Chirashi: A serving of sushi rice in a bowl with raw and cooked vegetables and seafood scattered over the top. Ebi is most commonly used in this dish.
  • Sashimi: Thinly sliced raw seafood with shrimp being one of the most commonly used sushi ingredients.

Ebi is a popular choice for sushi beginners, whether making the dish themselves or experimenting with Japanese cuisine in a restaurant.

Is Ebi Cooked?

Is Ebi Cooked
Credit: @chenny_cook

Ebi can be cooked or served raw. However, freshness is essential if you want to use raw shrimp. There are also certain ebi such as Amaebi shrimp that are best suited for eating raw. When cooking ebi, it’s important to not overcook as you’ll end up with a rubbery texture and bland taste! You can buy ready-cooked butterfly shrimps if you don’t want to fuss with cooking this ingredient yourself.

Related Read: Can Sushi Be Cooked?

What Are the Different Shrimps Used to Make Ebi Sushi?

Different shrimp species can be used for culinary purposes, either cooked or raw. They come from different regions around the world and each type changes the flavor and texture of the recipe. Here are some of the most popular shrimp species used in Japanese sushi dishes.

Kuruma Shrimp

Kuruma shrimp is also known as the Japanese tiger prawn. It lives in the bays and seas of the Indo-West Pacific. But, it can also be found in the Mediterranean Sea. It has a high economic value in aquaculture, being produced in shrimp farms.

The entire shrimp including the shell, head, and tail are boiled to capture its natural sweetness. It’s not unusual to find this type of shrimp’s liver, also known as miso, used in rice to add a richer, flavorful taste to the dish. The Kuruma shrimp is also well-known for its richness in unami taste created by a combination of glycine, glutamates, and inosinate found naturally in this shellfish.

Amaebi Shrimp

Amaebi shrimp is a cold water shrimp found naturally in the seas between Russia and Northern Japan. It’s sought after by sushi chefs for its well-known sweetness and is one of the only shrimps that can be enjoyed raw. Cooking this shrimp will take away its delectable sweet taste!

Also known as ama-ebi, spot prawn, sweet shrimp or pink shrimp, this shellfish has a slimy texture and is used in both sashimi and sushi dishes. They’re harvested while still very young, to benefit from their unique sweet taste.

Sakura Shrimp

A seasonal shellfish found only in the Suruga Bay of Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, the Sakura shrimp is translucently pink. Sakura in Japanese means cherry blossom! It grows up to 5cm long and can only be eaten raw when freshly harvested. Instead, this shrimp is used in sushi recipes either dried or fried as a fritter.

These seasonal shrimps can only be caught at certain times of the year, from March to June and October to December. Trawling for this seafood is prohibited during the summer months when the shrimps are spawning.  Smaller populations can be found in the nearby Tokyo and Sagami Bays of Japan.

Shiro Shrimp

This is also known as white shrimp. Shiro-ebi is extremely rare and only found in the region of Toyama, Japan. It grows up to 7cm in length and is slightly pink in coloring until it dies when it turns to white. Raw Shiro-Ebi sushi is an uncommon dish in that it needs to be fresh if eaten uncooked. Similar to the ama-ebi, the Shiro shrimp is very sweet-tasting.

Shiro-Ebi sushi is highly favored in Japanese restaurants around the United States and chefs are always on the lookout for it. One of the reasons this shrimp is a popular choice is that it doesn’t become liquid when used as a raw sushi ingredient.

Botan Shrimp

Botan shrimp or ebi is also known as the Japanese “jumbo sweet shrimp.” True to its given name, this type of shrimp is large, plump, and full of sweet flavors. It’s similar to the ama-ebi with the only difference being it’s bigger than its Amaebi counterpart. Botan ebi can also be served both raw and cooked in sushi and sashimi dishes.

Botan-ebi is sourced from Hokkaido or Toyama Bay, Japan but it’s also being farmed in Seattle and Florida, America. This shrimp is harvested in Japan between the months of November and March.

Also Read: What is a Dragon Roll Made of?

How to Make Ebi Sushi

How to Make Ebi Sushi
Credit: @kris.ting

Easy Steps for Beginners

If you’re only starting out as a sushi chef and preparing dishes at home, always make sure you use whole, fresh shrimp and opt for the larger type to begin with. When making sushi, ebi is a popular ingredient that’s easy to prepare as a beginner.

Use these steps to prepare ebi for sushi recipes.

Step 1

Before starting to make your ebi shrimp sushi, have the following on hand:

  • Japanese tiger prawns
  • Bamboo skewers
  • A large pot
  • Small tubs for ice
  • Ice

Step 2

Completely thaw the shrimps if they’re frozen. Straighten out each prawn by placing your thumb on the spine and fingers on the underside or feet.

Step 3

Pierce the prawn with a bamboo skewer, feeding it along the vein line. There should be very little resistance if you hit the vein line when pushing the skewer through the shrimp. Repeat the process until you’ve skewered all the shrimps.

Step 4

While adding the shrimps to the skewers, bring a pot of water to a boil. You can add some salt or a dash of lemon juice to the water for extra flavor. Add the skewered shrimps to the boiling water and cook for about 30 to 90 seconds or until the shellfish meat has turned white. It should also feel firm.

Step 5

When done, add the cooked shrimps to a bowl of ice-cold water to stop them from overcooking. Once cooled, remove from the ice water and peel off the shells. You can leave the tails on if you’re using them for ebi nigiri. Otherwise, remove the tails if being used in maki rolls or other sushi dishes.

Also Read: 35 Fun and Tasty Sushi Filling Ideas

Simple Steps to Butterflying Ebi

Ebi is most often butterflied for sushi dishes such as nigiri or fried tempura. While it may look complicated, it’s actually quite easy to butterfly ebi shrimp. Use these steps to get it right!

Step 1

Make sure you have a serrated or sharp knife when you’re ready to butterfly ebi. Turn the shrimp belly up and start cutting from the head to the tail. Don’t cut right through the shrimp. You only want to go half way down, through the flesh.

Step 2

Push the knife down, splitting open the ebi without slicing the shrimp into two halves. You’ll notice a dark thread, also known as the vein or rather, the intestinal tract. The brown coloring isn’t blood but instead, body waste or poop!

Step 3

Remove the vein with the tip of the knife, pulling it out. Or, simply gently scrape away the thread with the knife. Some chefs like to rinse under cold running water to ensure the thread is completely removed. Deveining is often done for aesthetics and not because it’s dangerous to your health! In Japan, shrimp is often served with the vein still in place.

Step 4

Your shrimps are now butterflied and ready to be cooked for Ebi sushi.

Watch this video which demonstrates how to prepare sushi shrimp for Ebi Nigiri.

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Final Thoughts

Ebi sushi is a delectable Japanese dish enjoyed worldwide. The shrimp or ebi is a sushi ingredient used in various ways, depending on the recipe. It’s also a beginner’s choice when it comes to preparing this cuisine at home while discovering the unique flavors that come with eating Ebi sushi.

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