Why does it taste a little bland when you had tuna at high-class sushi restaurant?

Tuna at top-end restaurants is light in flavor. Its Akami (red meat) has an indescribable acidity with a delicate harmony between the shari vinegar, the nikiri soy sauce, and wasabi. However, on the other side of the coin, it feels almost like a waste to eat it without a sense of luxury. Of course tuna with delicious akami, also has delicious fatty tuna (toro). And you’ll never get tired of it. It would be easy to polish off 10 pieces as a light snack. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the high fat content that makes it so easy to eat. However, it is because of that popular belief that many people feel that the big chain store farmed fish with lots of fat is more delicious than luxury natural fish.

 


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Revision date: April 16, 2019

What is Red Snapper the same as “Tai” (Sea Bream)?

In the United States, Sea Bream is often called a Red Snapper. However, strictly speaking, this is not correct.

Biologically, Snapper is a generic term for all species in the snapper family. Over 100 different species of snapper inhabit tropical coastal waters. Red snapper is mainly fished in the Gulf of Mexico.

So, what is the fish that Japanese sushi restaurants call “tai”?

They say there are over 300 different species of fish with “tai” in the name, making up 10% of Japan’s fish. When we say “tai” in Japanese, we are referring to “madai” or red sea bream. Red sea-bream is categorized in the “madai” (Pagrinae) subfamily.

Incidentally, relatives of the sea bream often served at sushi restaurants include red sea bream (madai), crimson sea bream (chidai) and yellowback sea bream (kidai). While “kinmedai” (Splendid alfonsino) and “amadai” (horsehead tilefish) have the name “tai/dai” in them, they are not part of the same family as “tai” (sea bream). Splendid alfonsino is a type of deep-sea fish.

Red sea bream and red snapper look similar, but when served as sushi, their texture and flavors are entirely different. So if you come to Japan, please try and eat natural red sea bream (madai). There is no “zatsumi” (overpowering bitterness) and it has a slight sweetness to it. This is the taste of sea bream, known as king of the white fish. Just for your own reference.


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Revision date: January 29, 2019

Why do we use the counter “kan” for sushi?

When you sit at the counter and order nigiri a la carte, they will come out in pairs.* There is nothing wrong with counting these in the regular Japanese way “ikko,” “niko.”

*It is said that nigiri-zushi in the Edo period was bigger than it is today, and too big to eat in one bite. In the Meiji period, the custom emerged of splitting this one big portion into two to make more easily consumed portions, and this is why it is common to get sushi in sets of two. However, nowadays making one piece of nigiri-zushi at a time is not very efficient. We think it’s actually easier for the sushi restaurant to make them in sets of two. Of course, you can order them one by one.

But the sushi restaurant won’t count them like that. Formally, sushi is counted in this way: Ikkan (one), Nikan (two).

We have absolutely no idea where the custom of using the “kan” counter came from. It’s also not clear when use of that counter for sushi started.

Of course, there are theories. For example, there is a theory that back at a time when a single unit of money was called “kan.” The price for one piece of sushi was around 1 ‘kan’, and the counting method gained popularity. There is another theory that one sushi roll was counted with the counter for roll “巻” (also pronounced “kan”), then a different kanji was used for it later. However, these are just theories that were created after the fact and the mystery remains unsolved.

Even if you ask the owner of a sushi restaurant, they’ll probably cock their head to one side, think for a moment, and tell you that the “kan” mystery may never be solved.

Sushi rolls wrapped in seaweed rolls are counted in units of 本 (hon/bon/pon) in the wrapped state, and when cut with a knife, the units change to 切れ (kire). While these units are fairly straight-forward for Japanese language speakers and easy to understand, only the enigmatic 貫 (kan) remains a mystery.


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Revision date: January 16, 2019

Do you know that there are rankings for negitoro (minced tuna)?

The original negitoro is made from medium fatty tuna or nakaochi* chopped up finely with a knife and then mixed with chopped green onions on top. But the tuna may be switched out with filler, leading to a variety in quality of the negitoro available.

First of all, the lowest in the ranking are the offcuts of tuna that can’t be made into sashimi (mainly Yellowfin or Albacore tuna) and this is mixed with vegetable oil and minced. The type of onion used is normally green onions. You can pick this type out because it will be whitish in color. This version is normally served at conveyor belt sushi.

The medium quality uses the nakaochi of cheap Albacore tuna or Swordfish.

High quality negitoro uses the nakaochi of Pacific bluefin tuna or Southern bluefin tuna. Sometimes the green onion sprout is then rolled up inside. If you have a chance to try negitoro in Japan, we recommend you try the top quality options without a doubt. One piece will probably cost around $15 USD. But that’s the price for the real thing!

Finally, let me introduce some negitoro trivia. There is a lot of flesh on the middle bone (spine) and the surrounding area for tuna and the like. This is called “nakaochi*”. Scraping the meat from this area surrounding the spine is known as “negitoru”, which is where the word “negitoro” comes from. In other words, the name “negitoro” is not actually from the words onion (negi) and tuna belly (toro).


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Revision date: January 8, 2019

What is Umami?

Umami describes the delicious taste of savory flavor essences. For many years, people held to the belief that humans can taste only four basic flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter) unitil a japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda discovered a fifth flavor (glutamic acid) in the early 20th century.

The main umami ingredients are glutamic acid in seaweed, inosinic acid in dried bonito and meats, succinic acid in shellfish, guanylic acid in shiitake mushroom.

Many ingredients contain a wide variety of umami essences. In combination, they create a  synergistic effect which produces an even more potent savory flavor.


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Revision date: October 31, 2018

What is the difference between Bafun uni and Ezobafun uni?

While they are very similar to Green sea urchins (Bafun uni), Short-spined sea urchins (Ezobafun uni) are a size larger and have thick spines.

Green sea urchins are 5cm in diameter and Short-spined sea urchins are 10cm in diameter. Green sea urchins are distributed from the southern areas of Hokkaido down to Kyushu. Short-spined sea urchins are mainly distributed in the Hokkaido and Tohoku areas. The most commonly eaten green sea urchins that are Short-spined sea urchins in Japan.


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Revision date: October 15, 2018

The migrating route of Inshore bluefin tuna and fishing place!

Tuna caught in the coastal regions of the Japan Sea is notable as the best bluefin tuna in January. Iki, a small island in Kyushu area is one of the famous ports for tuna.

In February and March, the tuna auction market becomes slack due to rough weather. Just a few tunas from Nachikatsuura where is also the famous port for tuna are on the market.

In March and April, tunas become thin because their eggs need many nutrients.

In May, large tuna is seldom seen in the Tsukiji Fish Market. Even if there is, its body is really thin. “Kinkaimono” which means a shore-fish is generally considered as high-class tuna, but in this season, imported tuna is useful instead.

It is said that Pacific Bluefin tunas spawn around Japanese waters between Taiwan and Okinawa in April and May. And then, they go up to fertile, north sea along the eastern coast of Japan.

In June, “Chubo” which is young and small tuna is taken hugely off the coast of the Sea of Japan. The school of Chubo begin moving northward in this season.

In July and August, tunas can be seen occasionally but their bodies are still thin. Instead, Boston Tuna which is caught in the Atlantic Ocean and nicknamed “Jumbo” is on the market. Its fresh is softer than “Kinkaimono” and it doesn’t have medium-fatty part which “Kinkaimono” has.

In September, Boston Tunas are at their best with plenty of fat on them. The best season of Boston Tuna is limited and ends in October. But fortunately, Japanese tunas come into season.

The school of tunas split up into two groups, the one takes Pacific Ocean route and another takes the Japan Sea route and both of them move northward along the Japanese Islands. Some of them reach the Tsugaru Strait where and the season of Tuna begins from September to next January. Oma town and Toi town is famous nationwide for its catch of tuna from the Tsugaru Strait. The flavor of tuna in September is still weak but it becomes stronger in October. In November, feed of tunas such as Pacific saury or Japanese common squid with plenty of fat increase and flavor of tuna also gets stronger. In December, the peak season comes around.

A catch of tuna falls off in January and it enters the final season. The temperature of sea water gets cold and feed of tuna, squids decrease and the fishing season in this area ends.


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Revision date: August 20, 2018

Why can’t Pacific saury be caught?

On the Pacific Ocean side of Japan there is a three-way deadlock between sardines, mackerel and Pacific saury. There is a theory that the species take turns with increasing and decreasing populations. In recent years there has been an increase in sardines and, in turn, there has been a decline in Pacific saury.


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Revision date: July 30, 2018

What is the difference between maturing and rotting?

When fish die, stopping the supply of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), the source of muscle energy, the muscle fibers gradually harden. As time passes, it gently dissolves and the ATP breaks down, changing into umami components due to self-digestion. The umami created by self-digestion of ATP is “maturing” and the process after that is “rotting.”


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Revision date: July 23, 2018

We’ll introduce all sushi toppings throughout Japan, from Okinawa to Hokkaido!

<Akami-Red flesh fish>

Binnaga maguro-Longfin white tuna

Katsuo-Bonito (Oceanic bonito, Striped tuna)

Kihada maguro-Yellowfin tuna

Maguro (Kuromaguro, Honmaguro, Shibi)-Bluefin tuna

Makajiki-Striped marlin

Mebachi maguro-Bigeye tuna

Mekajiki-Swordfish

Minami maguro (Indo maguro)-Southernbluefin tuna

Suma-Wavyback skipjack, Eastern little tuna

<Shiromi-White flesh fish>

Ainame-Green ling

Amadai-Horsehead tilefish

Ara-Rock-cod

Buri-Japanese amberjack

Ebotai (Ibodai)-Butterfish

Engawa-Thin muscle of the dorsal fin of Japanese flounder, Marbled sole, etc.

Fugu (Torafugu)-Globefish (Blowfish, Puffer )

Hiramasa-Amberjack

Hirame-Japanese flounder (Olive flounder)

Hoshigarei-Spotted halibut

Houbou-Bluefin searobin

Inada-Japanese amberjack (30〜40cm)

Isaki-Striped pigfish

Ishidai-Barred knifejaw

Ishigarei-Stone flounder

Kamasu (Akakamasu)-Barracuda

Kanpachi-Greater amberjack

Kasugo (Chidai, Kidai)-Baby Red sea-bream (Crimson sea-bream, Eellowback sea-bream)

Kawahagi-Filefish

Kijihata(Akou)-Redspotted Grouper

Kinki (Kichiji)-Thornhead

Kinmedai-Splendid alfonsino

Kochi (Magochi)-Bartail flathead

Kue-Longtooth grouper

Kurodai(Chinu)-Blackhead seabream

Kurosoi-Black rockfish

Mahata (Hata)-Grouper (Rock-cod, Seven band grouper)

Makogarei-Marbled sole

Matsukawagarei-Barfin flounder

Mebaru-Rockfish

Medai-Japanese butterfish

Meichidai-Nakedhead

Mejina-Greeenfish (Nibbler, Rudderfish)

Mutsu-Japanese bluefish

Nametagarei (Babagarei)-Slime flounder

Nodoguro (Akamutsu)-Blackthroat seaperch

Okoze (Oniokoze)-Devil stinger

Sakuramasu-Cherry salmon

Satsukimasu-Sasu salmon

Sawara-Japanese spanish mackerel

Shimaaji-Crevalle jack (Trevally)

Suzuki-Japanese seaperch

Tachiuo-Largehead hairtail (Cutlassfish, Scabbardfish)

Tai (Madai)-Red sea-bream

Tara (Madara)-Pacific cod

Umazurahagi-Leatherfish

<Hikarimono - Silver-skinned fish>

Aji (Maaji) - Japanese horse-mackerel

Ayu - Ayu

Gomasaba- Spotted mackerel

Hamo -Daggertooth pike conger

Hatahata - Japanese sandfish

Iwashi - Sardine

Kisu - Japanese whiting

Kohada - Gizzard shad

Mamakari - Big-eye sardine

Saba - Pacific mackerel

Sanma - Pacific saury

Sayori - Halfbeak

Shinko - Baby Gizzard shad

Tobiuo - Japanese flyingfish

<Ika/Tako-Squid/ Octopus>

Aori ika-Bigfin reef squid

Hotaru ika-Firefly squid

Iidako-Ocellated octopus

Kensaki ika (Shiroika)-Swordtip squid

Mizudako-North-pacific giant octpus

Shin ika-Baby cuttlefish

Sumi ika (Kouika)-Cuttlefish

Surume ika-Japanese common squid

Tako (Madako)-Octopus

Yari ika-Spear squid

<Kai-Shell>

Akagai-Ark shell

Aoyagi (Bakagai)-Rediated trough-shell (Surf-clam)

Awabi (Kuroawabi)-Japanese abalone

Baigai-Japanese ivory-shell

Ezoawabi-Ezo-abalone

Hokkigai-Hen-clam

Hotate-Common scallop (Giant ezo-scallop, Frill, Fan-shell)

Ishigakigai-Bering Sea cockle

Iwagaki-Rock-oyster

Kaki (Magaki)-Oyster

Kobashira-The adductor of bakagai shellfish (Rediated trough-shell)

Madakaawabi-Giant abalone

Megaiawabi-Disk abalone

Mirugai (Honmirugai)-Otter-shell (Keen’s gaper)

Namigai (shiromiru)-Japanese geoduck

Nihama-Common orient clam (Japanese hard clam, White clam)

Sazae-Spiny top-shell

Shirogai (Manjugai, Saragai)-Northern great tellin

Tairagi (Tairagai)-Pen-shell (Fan-shell)

Tokobushi-Tokobushi abalone

Torigai-Egg-cockle (Heart-shell)

Tubugai (Matsubu)-Ezo-neptune (Whelk, Winckle)

<Ebi/Kani-Prawn/Crab>

Aka ebi-Argentine Red Shrimp

Ama ebi-Deepwater prawn (Deepwater shrimp, Pink prawn)

Black tiger (Ushi ebi)-Black tiger

Botan ebi-Botan shrimp (Pink prawn, Pink shrimp)

Gasa ebi-Argis lar

Ise ebi-Japanese spiny lobster

Kegani-Horsehair crab (Korean crab, Kegani crab)

Kuruma ebi-Kuruma prawn

Sakura ebi-Sakura shrimp

Shako-Squilla (Mantis shrimp, Edible mantis shrimp)

Shima ebi-Morotoge shrimp

Shiro ebi (Shira ebi)-Japanese glass shrimp

Tarabagani-King crab (Alaska king crab, Red king crab)

Zuwaigani-Snow crab (Queen crab, Zuwai-crab)

<Others>

Akauni-Red sea urchin

Anago-Japanese conger

Bafununi-Short-spined sea uruchin (Green sea urchin)

Ezobafununi-Short-spined sea urchin

Hoya-Sea squirt

Ikura-Salmon roe

Kazunoko-Herring roe

Kitamurasakiuni-Northern sea urchin

Komochikonbu-Herring spawn on kelp

Murasakiuni-Purple sea urchin

Namako-Sea cucumber

Noresore-Young Japanese conger

Shirako-Globefish testis

Shirohige-White spin sea urchin

Sirauo-Icefish

Tamago-Egg omelet

Unagi-Japanese eel

<Norimaki-Seaweed roll>

Anakyu maki-Gizzard shad and Cucumber roll

Himokyu maki-Mantle of ark shell and Cucumber roll

Kanpyou maki-Sweet-simmered kanpyo (dried gourd strip) roll

Kappa maki-Cucumber roll

Kohada maki-Gizzard shad roll

Namida maki-Vinegared rice and thin strips of Wasabi rolled in seaweed

Negitoro maki-Green onion and toro roll

Shinko maki-Pickled radish and shiso plant roll

Takuwan maki-Pickled radish roll

Tekka maki-Norimaki sushi roll with red tuna and grated wasabi at the core.

Torotaku maki-Toro and Pickled radish roll

Umeshiso maki-Pickled ume and shiso plant roll


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: July 16, 2018