Tuna is often seen as being representative of sushi, sashimi and fish in Japanese food culture; from the famous Tuna auctions at the Tsukiji Fish Market to supermarkets to sushi restaurants, it plays a central role in Japanese seafood cuisine.
Just like with any other type of meat, when we say tuna it’s not just one homogeneous piece of flesh – different parts taste distinctly different with differing textures and flavours.
The “red meat” (this is a direct translation from the Japanese word for this cut, “akami”) is the standard cut – smooth, and relatively free of fat. However, since the fat is where a lot of the flavours come from, though “akami” has its fans many people consider it to be uninteresting!
Moving to the back, these cuts (upper, mid and lower back) have a slightly higher fat content. The mid back is the least fibrous (and hence the most popular cut along the back), the lower back has some fibre and with the upper back the fibres going through the meat is slightly thicker.
Along the belly, the lower belly has roughly the same amount of fat as along the back, and hence all these cuts are often lumped together under the name “Chu-Toro”. You get higher and higher fat content going from lower belly to the mid belly and the upper belly; this upper belly is often the most prized area of the Tuna, and goes by the name “Oo-Toro”. It’s definitely the most expensive cut wherever you go!
While not every supermarket or sushi restaurant is guaranteed to stock some of the more esoteric parts shown here, many people consider them to be far tastier than the belly or back – be sure to try them out when you visit the Tsukiji Fish Market! They are generally oilier and have more complex flavours compared to the more traditional cuts.
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