Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tuna "Maguro" 鮪 Part 1

Grilled tuna with teriyaki sauce マグロの照り焼き
As Mark's book mentions, many Izakaya regulars start with Sashimi 刺身. We are no exception. In the United States, good sashimi-grade tuna or other sashimi items are not easy to get. We occasionally mail order from Catalina Offshore Products in San Diego. They have a fairly good quality fish for sashimi including very excellent "uni" 雲丹 or sea urchin. They ship overnight   either frozen or ice packed. The only problem is that we have to order a rather large quantity especially if you want several different varieties of sashimi. I hope I can post our sashimi feast sometime soon.  So, I resort to getting sashimi from the local Japanese grocery stores, not the best but certainly OK. When I am desperate, I even get a frozen sashimi-grade tuna block さく of  yellow fin tuna, which is treated with an "odorless" smoke (euphemism for carbon monoxide) to retain its red color. We even saw this type of tuna being served at a Japanese restaurant in North Carolina (poor sushi chef and customer). "Yellow fin" tuna is least desirable for sashimi.  Blue fin tuna ほんまぐろ or bigeye tuna めばちまぐろ are much preferred. In any case, sometimes, the quality of these frozen tuna blocks is just barely good enough to eat as sashimi, thus, I made these two dishes. Other ways are to marinate the tuna in soy sauce and mirn for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator (this is a very similar to what I mentioned in the squid posting called "okizuke") after cutting into cubes or slices and make "tuna domburi" 鉄火丼 or "yamakake" やまかけ (I will post these later).

After thawing the tuna block, I smear grated garlic (I use a garlic press), black peper and salt. Sear very quickly in hot frying pan/skillet (for 10-15 seconds each side) with bit of vegetable or olive oil. Take the tuna out and set aside. Add about equal amounts of mirin, soy sauce and (good quality but not super expensive) balsamic vinegar and reduce in half or until a saucy consistency is reached. (You could add cold butter to make it more like western style sauce.) Slice the tuna in half inch thick pieces, arrange on the plate, add sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds. You will be surprised how good the combination of balsamic vinegar,  soy sauce and tuna is. Now, it becomes rather palatable!

Tuna tartar with cream cheese

This is another dish I made from this low-grade frozen block of tuna. Mince tuna in small pieces. You need softened cream cheese in 1/3 to 1/2 amount of the tuna. Add grated or finely chopped garlic, dash of sesame oil (darkly roasted, of course), soy sauce, wasabi (more about this in the future), salt and pepper to taste. Fold the tuna into this mixture. Sprinkle chopped chive and splash of lemon juice.  You could eat this as is or with slices of baguette or crackers. It goes well with wine (do not put to much lemon juice if you are drinking wine) or sake.


Hiroyuki said...

Thanks for your detailed description of what the quality of sashimi is like in the United States.
I like maguro! I've always liked ruby-red akami (lean part) since childhood (toro was not as popular then as it is today). I find o-toro is too greasy for my taste, and I prefer chu-toro.
Two of my favorite izakaya menu items are yakitori and niku jaga (potato meat stew).
I have one question: Is bincho (or bin'naga) bigeye? I think bigeye is mebachi and bincho is albacore.

Uncle N said...

Hiroyuki, thank you for your comment. You are right about the Japanese name for Bigeye tuna. I corrected it. Hope I can continue with my food blog as you have done. I will check back to your blog from time to time. Please give me any comments or suggestions you may have.