The more you know, the tastier it is! Complete Information on Sushi Ingredients – Lean Meat Edition
There are many ingredients used in sushi, including shellfish, fish, fish eggs, vegetables, and more, so you might not know what to pick. If you know something about every ingredient, you'll be able to enjoy sushi even more. This includes the different parts of tuna! Here is some information about akami.
What is "akami"?
Sushi restaurants split up their ingredients in categories like akami (lean meat), shiromi (white fish), hikarimono (fish with the silver skin left on), etc. Fish with red meat are all called akami. When it comes to tuna, there's the akami (which refers to the tuna's back, where there's little fat), chutoro (medium-fatty tuna), and otoro (fatty tuna) as well as katsuo (skipjack tuna), sake (salmon), masu (trout), and other standard sushi ingredients.
Nigirizushi's most popular ingredient is tuna, and it's been used in sushi for the past 130-140 years. At the time, tuna was very cheap, and the non-fatty parts were popular. Now it's the fatty parts that are desired.
There are 6 types of tuna that are used in sushi: the kuro maguro or honmaguro (Pacific bluefin tuna), indo maguro or minami maguro (southern bluefin tuna), taiseiyou maguro (northern bluefin tuna), mebachi maguro (bigeye tuna), kihada maguro (yellowfin tuna), and binchou maguro (albacore tuna). In Japan, kuro maguro and minami maguro are especially high-class tuna. Depending on the sushi restaurant, they might prefer to have many kinds of tuna available.
While you can taste many types of tuna as sushi, since it's a large fish, depending on the part of the tuna the amount of fat and flavor balance changes. Mostly 3 parts of the tuna are used for sushi: akami, chutoro, and otoro. Also, since the flesh of the binchou maguro is a pale pink, it's often used in conveyor belt sushi restaurants and called "bintoro."
Akami (Lean Tuna)
This akami refers to the part of the tuna called akami. It refers to the back of the tuna, which has little fat and is high in muscle. It's simple but the flavor is so firm that connoisseurs often prefer the akami to the otoro. Some popular ways to have it is "zuke," in which the cut pieces are pickled in a soy sauce-based sauce, or by lightly broiling the surface.
There are some shops that refer to akami as "maguro."
Chutoro (Medium-Fatty Tuna)
Chutoro is right between the muscly akami and the fatty otoro, so you can enjoy the balance of both. The flavor from the akami remains in the chutoro, but has just the right amount of tuna fat for sweetness.
Otoro (Fatty Tuna)
Otoro is an ingredient that cannot be left out when discussing sushi. This part is so fatty that it looks a little white, and it's known for the rich sweetness and flavor. Otoro comes from a part near the head on the belly, and it has so much fat that it feels as though it will melt in your mouth the moment you take a bite. The taste of the fat is rich, so it's recommended that when you eat it at a sushi restaurant, to eat it after you enjoy light white-fleshed sushi.
Katsuo (Skipjack Tuna)
Famous producers of katsuo are Kesenuma in Miyagi and Katsuura in Chiba. The season runs from spring to fall, and in the fall it's an especially delicious sushi topping thanks to the amount of fat it has. Katsuo has a characteristic fishy flavor, so it's even more delicious when eaten with ginger or green onions. Also, if you slightly broil one side and then make it into tataki, the outside becomes fragrant while the inside keeps the smooth texture of the katsuo, so it's a recommended sushi ingredient.
Sake (Salmon) and Masu (Trout)
In recent years, these ingredients have gained popularity as sushi thanks to conveyor belt sushi, but in some traditional restaurants they don't serve them. Actually, they're both white-fleshed fish, but since they eat crustaceans like shrimp and crab, the component astaxanthin changes their flesh color to orange, so sushi restaurants often count them as akami.
Since there's a perfect amount of fat, and it's sweet and easy to eat, it's delicious not just raw but also cooked. They go well with lemon or salt. Many restaurants have king salmon and Donaldson trout, but both of them may be called "salmon." Most sushi restaurants use Donaldson trout. Like tuna, the fatty part is called "toro-salmon."
While they're all classified as akami, they have varied flavors and types. If you go to a sushi restaurant, definitely try different kinds of sushi!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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