When enjoying sushi or sashimi, tuna is a common ingredient. Whether you’re at a conveyor belt restaurant or somewhere more high-end, delicious cuts of tuna can be enjoyed over a wide range of prices. These price variations reflect not just the quality and prestige of the chef and restaurant, but also the cut of tuna you’re enjoying. But what are the different kind of cuts and why do some cost more than others? Let’s find out!
What is Maguro?
Maguro, also known as tuna, is the word you’ll see when talking about tuna in general and encompasses all of the different cuts. There are many different kinds of tuna, but the ones you’ll find most often in Japan are northern bluefin (hon-maguro), southern bluefin (minami-maguro), albacore (binnaga-maguro), yellowfin (kihada-maguro) and bigeye (mebachi-maguro).
Different Cuts of Tuna
Akami is the most common cut of tuna you’ll see throughout Japan. It is the least fatty section and is red in color. The name makes sense, as the “aka” in akami means red. The lack of fat is not as desirable in tuna cuts and because it is the most common cut; it’s also the cheapest in price.
Moving up in price, chutoro is the cut between the akami and otoro. This name is pertinent because “chuu” means middle in Japanese. It is also in the middle when it comes to fat content. Chutoro has a good mix of both fat and meat, which makes it less chewy than akami. However, because it is the cut in between the akami and otoro, there isn’t much chutoro available to cut out of each tuna fish.
The most expensive and most desirable cut is otoro. This high-quality cut is from the fat under-belly of a tuna fish. The fat adds a sweet note to the taste and the texture is always described as “melt in your mouth” soft. Interestingly, this part of the tuna used to be thrown out before refrigeration was invented. The high fat content meant that it spoiled faster then the meatier parts. Nowadays, it is the most sought after cut in every tuna.
Not typically used as nigiri, kamatoro is the flesh around the gills and collarbone of the tuna. It’s quite fatty and oily, but its taste doesn’t lend well to being eaten raw compared to otoro. It is more likely to be seen in stews or at barbeques.
No matter which cut you prefer, all are delicious in their own right. It’s no wonder that maguro is one of the most popular fish in Japan! Which type do you prefer?