Friday, September 11, 2009

Tuna Sashimi: Market to Sushi Bar

While Rachael and Nate were living in Japan, Judy and I visited them and one of the most interesting things we did was go to the Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, located in Tokyo. We got up early to be there for the tuna auction, which starts at about 5:20 a.m. There, blue fin tuna weighing hundreds of pounds each, are laying on pallets to be sold to the highest bidder.

It is an amazing collection of fish.

Each fish was tagged and marked, presumably with an identifying number and information about weight.

The tails were cut off.

I assume this may be to allow for inspection of the tuna flesh.

As auctioned fish were purchased, they were loaded onto carts and taken to individual booths in a different part of the market where they could be prepared for sale. It took three or four men to move each tuna as they are so large and heavy.

Each tuna was cut up with a long knife, called a maguro-bocho, or hancho hocho. First the tuna was cut in half, lengthwise.

Then it was quartered

and cut into even smaller chunks. Then it was flash frozen.

My understanding is that this is done to kill worms and other parasites that may be living in the fish before it is eaten raw as sashimi.

Large chunks of beautiful tuna sashimi were on display everywhere.

From there it is shipped off to restaurants and stores throughout Japan, or to the venders and sushi bars just outside the Tsukiji market.

We lined up to visit a sushi bar within throwing distance of the fish market auction and cutting booths. The quarters were cramped, crowded and warm, but the sashimi was about as fresh as you can get.

It was horribly expensive. We spent about $130.00 for three of us and our portions were not terribly large. But we did get some wonderful fatty tuna, which comes from the belly meat, and is the most expensive cut. Unlike the regular blue tuna, or maguro, which is dark red in color, the fatty tuna, or otoro, is heavily flaked in white. The otoro is to tuna what kobe beef is to regular beef.

We also had abalone which I had never eaten before as well as a number of other kinds of fish that I don't recall. It was an amazing experience.

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