Tuna is one of the most commonly used fish in sushi preparation. Tuna is called ‘maguro’ in Japanese and was not always so appreciated as a food. Until 1970s, tuna was considered to be a low-quality fish and was often used in cat food. This may be because tuna was disdained by the samurai of ancient Japan as a dirty and low-quality fish. Thankfully, it has become more popular today, and can be enjoyed in restaurants around the world. If you’re looking to buy tuna for sushi online, I highly endorse Catalina Offshore Products for their overnight shipping and absolutely top-notch fish quality. The price is pretty competitive as well.
Bluefin and Yellowfin
There are two types of tuna commonly used in restaurants. The bluefin tuna is the species typically referred to as ‘maguro’ and is generally leaner in comparison to yellowfin tuna, also commonly called just ‘yellowfin’. Yellowfin tuna is fatter and considered more of a delicacy in a restaurants, particularly sushi restaurants. Yellowfin tuna is called ‘ahi’ in Japanese, and is often served grilled in Western restaurants. In sushi restaurants, however, tuna is served raw. If you request ‘maguro’, you are likely to receive a cut from the lean sides of the fish. This is the part of the fish usually used in maki rolls and is also called ‘akami’. There are different cuts of the tuna, however, and some are better than others. The fatty belly area of the tuna is called the ‘toro’, and this is some of the most expensive sushi fish available. If you ask for toro, you should expect to pay more than if you just asked for maguro. In some high-end Japanese sushi bars, a single mouthful of delicious toro can cost as much as $20!
Chutoro and Otoro
The toro is also split up into more sections, the ‘chutoro’ and the ‘otoro’. Chutoro is the area on the side of the fish between the akami and the absolute underside of the fish. It is fattier than the akami but leaner than the otoro. Many people prefer this cut of tuna because of the consistency of the fish. Underneath that is the otoro. The otoro is the very fattiest portion of the tuna. For this reason, its consistency is incredibly soft and can melt in your mouth like a piece of candy. This is the most expensive part of the fish.
Because of tuna’s popularity in sushi restaurants, it has been overhunted in the past few years. Some estimates say that almost 80% of all bluefin tuna caught is used for sushi. This incredible demand for bluefin tuna has caused the fish to be hunted to the point of critical endangerment. Quotas are established on how many pounds of tuna fisherman are allowed to catch, but these quotas are routinely broken, because tuna can sell of incredible prices at a fresh fish market in Tokyo. Often times, entire tuna are sold for thousands of dollars and the cost shared by multiple sushi restaurants. On January 4, 2010, a whole tuna was sold in the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo for 6 million yen, or around $177,000. The fish was 510 lbs and bought jointly by a high-end sushi restaurant and a entrepreneur who owns a string of sushi houses in Japan.
In sushi, tuna is eaten as a maki roll, nigiri, and sashimi. They are usually eaten in very simple rolls, with the exception of spicy tuna rolls, which feature chopped bits of tuna mixed with spicy Japanese mayonnaise avocado. In Japanese, the traditional tuna roll is called ‘tekkamaki’. Tuna is also commoned rolled with cucumber or other kinds of fish to make a seafood roll.
Pictures courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.