Tuna Species

I noticed that many friends at Foodbuzz are anglers and fish lovers.
Here is some useful information on the most popular fish in Japan (and in Spain, too), namely Tuna!
Kuromaguro/Blue Fin Tuna

kuromaguro.jpg

Tuna or “Maguro” is the most popular fish for sushi and sashimi lovers in Japan (and abroad). It is said that more than 60% of total catch is consumed in Japan alone (and probably a lot higher depending on species). Incidentally, Japan is not the single bigger consumer of fish. Spain is!

Now, there is tuna and tuna. Briefly said there many species with many names and very different price tags as well!

The first species I would like to introduce is “Kuromaguro”, or Blue Fin Tuna (or Tunny). It has many other names in Japanese: Honmaguro, Maguto,Meji,Yokowa, Shibi, Imoshii, Shibimaguro, Kuroshibi, and Hatsu!

The best are caught in Winter mainly in the seas off Kochi (Shikoku Island), Miyagi and Hokkaido Prefectures.
This variety is the most expensive and can reach astronomical prices, especially caught in Winter off Hokkaido.
Imported Kuromaguro usually reaches Japan frozen, but in recent years the fish has been successfully raised in semi-wild environments in Spain, Australia and Croatia and arrives in Japan fresh by plane.
Import and sale of Kuromaguro are monopolised by Japanese trade associations, unless you are lucky enough to catch one (careful here, as poaching is a major offense in Japan!).
Between you and me, if you want to eat Kuromaguro sashimi, it might come cheaper if you do it while travelling in Spain!
Did you know that Japanese importers will fly to Spain and other countries just to check that the fish are bled properly?

kuromaguro-otoro
Kuromaguro Otoro (fat part)

kuromaguro-chutoro
Kuromaguro Chutoro (semi-fat part)

kuromaguro-akami
Kuromaguro Akami (lean part)

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Mebachi/Big-eyed Tuna

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We are nearing the season for savouring Mebachi or Big-eyed Tuna, a fairly reasonable kind of tuna especially popular for its “akami” (lean part)
mebachi-akami

It has different names according to the areas: “Darumashibi” (Mie Prefecture), “Mebuto” (Kyushu). In Tokyo, Shizuoka and Wakayama, it is called “Daruma” when caught a young age.
The best seasons for catching are during the rainy season or the Fall.
This kind of tuna is mainly caught off the shores of Miyagi, Kagoshima, Kochi, Shizuoka, Kanagawa and Hokkaido Prefectures.

As said before it is mainly appreciated for its lean beautiful red flesh, but also cooked and grilled as “kama”:
mebachi-kama
In the fall it is also a source of toro (fatty part) when kuromaguro is not available.
In recent years it has been extensively caught in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and in the Mediterranean Sea. It also comes frozen from Chile, Peru and North America. It is also flown fresh from Australia, Indonesia and New York. A lot equally comes frozen from South Korea and Taiwan.

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Kihada: Yellowfin Tuna

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“Kihada maguro” or Yellowfin Tuna” will appear on our tables from early summer.
It is mainly caught off Shizuoka, Miyagi and Kochi Prefectures coasts.
Like all other fish it is called other names in different regions:
Kiwada, Itoshibi (Wakayama, Kochi, Kyushu), Shibi (Kyusyu, Osaka), Ban (Osaka) and Tuna Kajibi (Okinawa)
Kihada roams over many seas between 30 degrees north latitude and 30 degrees south latitude and even wider depending on the season.
Most of the fish caught in Japan is served locally as sashimi:
efbd8befbd89efbd88efbd81efbd84efbd81efbc92
Very recognizable for its pinkish colour.
It is also widely appreciated as Zuke (first lightly grilled, then dipped into ice water before being cut in thin slices) on nigiri:
kihada3
A lot is imported frozen.
In Shizuoka try to go for the freshly caught samples coming from Yaizu or Numazu.

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Minamimaguro/Southern Blue Fin Tuna

minamimaguro.jpg

Minamimaguro or Southern Blue Fin Tuna could be called a true Shizuoka Prefecture tuna as our Prefecture accounts for 30% of the total in Japan!
shizuokaminamimaguro
Like all fish it has different names: Indomaguro, Goushyumaguro, Bachimaguro.
In Autumn it is mainly caught off Australia, New Zealand, Capetown (South Africa) in the Southern Hemisphere and off the coasts of Shizuoka, Kochi, Kagoshima and Miyagi Prefectures in Japan.
Mianmimaguro is comparatively cheaper than its fellows as it contains little fat, which on the other hand makes it very easy to freeze and preserve.
shizuokaminamimagurochu
Regardless of the lack of fat, it makes for excellent sashimi, sushi and various parts are succulent grilled or cooked.
The parts discarded by humans make for a lot of cat food!

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Binnaga/Albacore Tuna

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Binnaga or Albacore is very often called Tonbo Maguro in Japan. It is also known under the name of Binchyou.
It is caught in the Summer off the coasts of Miyagi, Kochi, Mie and Miyazaki Prefectures.
This is probably the cheapest kind of tuna available in Japan apart of Marlin.
binnagatonbo
It makes for most of the cheaper tuna sashimi in supermarkets.
I personally like it fried in large slices before eating them as tuna hamburgers. Absolutely delicious and far healthier than a McDonald’s (let them sue me!)!
efbd82efbd89efbd8eefbd8eagatataki
For people who want to try their hand at making “tataki”, it would be the perfect first step into Japanese gastronomy.
It is also vastly used by canneries under the name of “Sea Chicken”.
It is probably the most popular tuna species outside Japan.
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Mekajiki/Big-eye Marlin

mekajiki.jpg

Strictly speaking, marlins are only a different branch from tuna, but as it is so often offered as a substitute for true tuna, I decided to introduce it as such.
There are many types of marlins all over the world, but the most commonly caught and eaten is “Mekajiki”/Big-eye Marlin.
kajiki1.jpg
It is found in various supermarkets and cheap izakaya. Still it is a very popular as sashimi as well as grilled fish. Even in my home country it is served as “Carpaccio”.
It is caught all around Japan from Atumn to Winter.
It is also called “Meka” in Tokyo or “Mesara” in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Sashimi varieties came in two main kinds: “kuro” and “shiro”.
“Makajiki” (“true marlin”) is peach pink while “Mekajiki” (“big-eye marlin”) is of a whitish orange.
More than 1,000 tonnes are caught off Japan, whereas imports amount to more than 1,100 tonnes.
In Europe and America it is popular as canned food or grilled.
mekajiki-sushi
One can enjoy it as cheap “nigiri” in sushi restaurants.
Fresh marlin should be shiny and show veins bright red.
It is mainly caught at night as it swims near the surface then.

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