Apr 1, 2019
Lean, fatty or a balanced mix of the two—there’s definitely a slice of tuna that’s perfect for you.
Japan is the world’s largest consumer of tuna, or maguro. The fish’s deep red meat is so ubiquitous in Japanese restaurants that it has become synonymous with sushi and sashimi.
While there are several different kinds of tuna, the most coveted is the Bluefin—those gigantic specimens you read about whenever there’s a record sale at Tokyo’s Tsukiji market. This variety is often referred to as hon maguro, or true tuna.
These fish can grow upwards of 300kg. The most expensive hon maguro ever sold was a 278kg whopper that went for S$4.2 million at the first new year auction at Toyosu, Tokyo’s new fish market earlier this year. Other tuna varieties include yellowfin, albacore and bigeye tuna.
The best catch comes in winter when the fish are fattier; in warmer weather, they tend to grow longer and are less fatty. Different parts of the fish yield different cuts and textures. The most abundant and therefore most affordable is akami, meaning red flesh. Coming from the back and the sides, this is the leanest part of the fish. Chutoro, which comes from the belly, is a mix of fatty and lean, while otoro, from the belly closer to the head, is the fattiest part of the fish—and the priciest. A fatty piece of otoro can look like a beautifully marbled slice of wagyu beef.
According to Masaki Watanabe, general manager of Maguro Donya Miura-Misaki-Kou in Suntec City, the size of the fish can also determine the fat content of otoro. For example, otoro from a fish that’s more than 140kg is fattier and has more marbling compared to a smaller, 80kg fish.
Most of the tuna that’s brought into Singapore is frozen in blocks, then carefully defrosted and served. It’s most commonly served raw as nigiri sushi or sashimi, but each restaurant may also have a special way to showcase this prized ingredient, such as aburi (blowtorched) or deep-fried as a cutlet.
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(Text SITI ROHANI Photography PETER LEE)