Tuna 5-Fingers

I am not laughing but I watch so many people eating sushi around the globe and they miss the most important part.

If you’ve been to Japan, or to a sushi restaurant using Hon Maguro you know how very expensive it is, and for a good reason. Imagine the process and cost to fish, ship, cut and deliver to restaurants locally caught tuna off the shores of Japan’s 35’000km coastline: https://stats-japan.com/t/kiji/22187

Many sushi lovers when entering a sushi restaurant in Japan are confronted by a chef’s “omakase” and for a good reason. The balancing act, serving a variety of fish some costing very little while others are astronomical in price. The fact is, the average food cost of a sushi exceeds 40% and that’s when clients are paying extraordinary prices.

If you enter Saito sushi, or any of the top rated sushi restaurants you walk out with a minimum cost of ¥50’000/person and that’s without beverages. Imagine the less they charge the higher the food costs given food cost is a percentage of sales.

Looking at a quarter side of the tuna belly, you can see that there is a significant part of the flesh which is red (Akami) and it occupies an important part of the tuna’s topside of the belly. For most sushi aficionados they adore the belly an important part of the fish divided into two parts; left and right side.

if you look at the photo below you noticed that the fish is divided between the front and middle and the back. The front begins with the cheek which is desirable for many people especially those who enjoy the extraordinary marbling something that can fool many clients. If you are a sushi aficionado you would know that the important taste of tuna is not found in the belly, but it’s in the lean parts of the fish, mainly the red part referred to in Japan as akami. You’ll see a lot of people who come to Japan and they are obsessing over the fatty tuna and that’s fine. But for people that know the middle part of the belly may be more refined and it’s not just about fat, it is more about the balance in flavour.

The same way people obsess over fat in fish, they do with Japanese meat and that’s why so many people come to Japan for the marbled sirloin. Their obsession with o-toro, the fatty part, or referred to as the extra fatty part of the tuna begins from the front (behind the fin) to the middle part of the tuna and end at the rear. Consequently, you have different areas within this section distinguishing the taste such as harakami and haranaka and at the tail end the harashimo.

the different parts of the tuna fish
the belly and red is akami topside

Think of a cow and think of the filet mignon as it represents a small part of the overall cow and the premium is in its scarcity. The same goes for the tuna’s belly and there’s plenty of red meat but if you look just below from the right side to the left side you see that there is lightly coloured flesh and this is the premium.

keep an open mind when you go in Japan to eat fish and try to keep yourself focused on the balance and flavours. This is still a key point in enjoying Japanese cuisine because there are so many nuances that are overlooked. The Nikiri, something almost unknown to many who gobble fish and dip their nigiri into baths of shoyu: https://mesubim.com/2015/08/28/oooo-toro-nikiri/

Enjoying Japanese food is about understanding the elements and without that you are just fulfilling your taste expectations which is fine, but it is a dead end game in learning.