Translated by Lester Somera
Toro, Chutoro and Maguro -Tuna And Its Many Names
Written by ニコ
The different fish cuts at Japanese sushi restaurants are often a mystery to visitors from outside Japan. Why are there so many types of tuna? This article explains the varieties of cuts from bluefin tuna, or maguro, which is a basic ingredient for sushi.
What's in your Sushi?
Japan has a multitude of delicious fish dishes, with sushi and sashimi, being two of the most popular ones. Foreign visitors often run into the problem that it is difficult to distinguish between different kinds of fish and fish dishes. It is not unusual for the same type of fish to have different names depending on the dish it is used in, the way it is cut, or the method of cooking.
In this article, we will provide an in-depth explanation about bluefin tuna and it's different names.
Each Part of the Tuna has a Different Name
Bluefin tuna, also known as maguro in Japanese, is very large. It is a Japanese tradition that not a single part from head to tail is wasted. The taste, the price, and the name of the cut vary according to the body part it is from. Let’s introduce those cuts here.
The Head is separated into the flesh of the upper head, the cheek, the jaw and the eyes.
Kabutoyaki, a dish with serious visual impact, is a bluefin tuna head cooked as a whole. The flesh from the top of the head is called kashiraniku, a rare cut that comprises just 0.5% of the tuna.
The taste of the cheek flesh is simple, but many people enjoy the meaty texture.
Kama or Kamatoro refers to the gill flesh, and there are only two pieces that can be cut from each tuna. The particularly fatty part within the kama is called kamatoro. The flesh’s rich fat content makes it look almost exactly like a section of marbled beef.
Kama is eaten in many different ways, such as barbecues and stews, while kamatoro is made into sashimi and sushi. Kamatoro is also used as an ingredient in high-class shabu-shabu.
Otoro is the name of the fattiest part of a tuna. Otoro has a characteristic sophisticated taste and a distinctive fat marbeling which makes the pieces to melt in your mouth.
The area on the abdomen near the gills is called harakami, and the center of the abdomen is called haranaka. Otoro is located between the harakami and haranaka.
Chutoro refer to parts of the tuna that can be found on both the back and stomach of the fish. More specific, the part of the back close to the head is sekami, the center of the back is called senaka, and the part closest to the tail is seshimo. The section of the haranaka close to the tail is called harashimo is also part of chutoro.
While not as rich as otoro, chutoro has a moderate fattiness and a can be enjoyed for a reasonable price, which makes it a very popular cut.
Akami is the name for the center of the tuna’s body. This cut has the least fat out of the whole fish, which makes it the most affordable. If you don’t really like fatty tuna, we recommend that you try akami.
The tail of the tuna is rich in fat, which gives it a concentrated flavor. Like kama, the tail is usually made into steaks, barbecued, or used in stews.
Different Types of Tuna, Different Prices
Five different varieties of tuna are sold in Japan. Each one has a different price and flavor profile.
The five kinds are northern bluefin (honmaguro), southern bluefin (minamimaguro), bigeye (mebachimaguro), yellowfin (kihadamaguro) and albacore (binnagamaguro). The prices can not only vary depending on the kind but also on other factors, such as whether it was caught in the wild or bred on a fish farm or if it has been frozen.
Northern bluefin tuna from the ocean is one of the most expensive variations. Prices fluctuate because the number of fish caught is more affected by climate conditions, compared to the volume of fish raised on fish farms.
Where the tuna is caught also influences the cost. A hundred-gram cut of northern bluefin tuna from the famous Oma brand, caught in the ocean, can cost up to 2500 yen, while the same cut from a tuna caught overseas can cost up to 1900 yen.
Farmed tuna is amongst the cheapest. A hundred-gram cut of northern bluefin tuna from a fish farm around Japan will cost up to 1200 yen. Ocean-caught, farmed and frozen tuna can be delivered fresh to your door via online shopping, which is quite convenient!
Prices for tuna sushi at places like conveyor-belt sushi restaurants are very reasonable! While prices depend on the cut, you can enjoy one plate of tuna topped sushi for as cheap as 100 yen.
Enjoy Japan's delicious Tuna
While taking your budget and preferences into consideration, why not challenge yourself by trying out all sorts of tuna cuts and dishes? You will not regret it!
*These prices are a rough estimate.