Exploring the World of Maguro
From deliciously fatty and rare bluefin to meaty ahi like yellowfin, highly diverse maguro is the perfect fish to use in a variety of Japanese recipes. Whether you want sashimi or steaks, there's a tuna for you!
While there are at least 15 different types of tuna around the world, Japanese cooking only use a few of them. Some of the most popular species include bluefin, southern bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin and albacore. These different species can be incorporated into dishes in a variety of ways, from raw in sashimi dishes to highly caramelized in blackened steak dishes. Here are five of the most popular maguro in Japanese cooking.
It’s the king of maguro. This tuna is highly prized and valued – so much so that you may not even be able to find it in the grocery store! This tuna can weigh more than 1,000 pounds and can cost anywhere from $10,000 to 1.7 million dollars. Bluefin tuna is extremely fatty, making it melt in the mouth. However, overfishing has made bluefin maguro endangered and much more difficult to find – hence the hefty price tag. Many people consider this one a luxury ingredient, serving it only at the most upscale of Japanese restaurants.
Not as large or expensive as standard bluefin tuna, southern bluefin tuna is still on a luxury side when it comes to Japanese cooking. While you likely won’t be able to find this variety at the grocery store, you can often find it at local restaurants in the form of sushi or sashimi. Its fatty nature makes southern bluefin tuna a delicious choice for decadent Japanese cuisine.
This firm, tropical tuna is one of the most popular varieties in grocery stores and sushi restaurants throughout Japan. Although it isn’t as fatty as the famed bluefin tuna, bigeye maguro (also known as mebachi in Japan) provides great akami. This muscular part of the fish is perfect for use in sashimi. However, you can also use it in steak form. It is one of the two types of tuna also called “ahi” in Hawaii (the other variety being yellowfin tuna, below).
With its signature yellow fin, this tuna (known as kihada in Japanese) is the least fatty tuna on this list. Instead, yellowfin maguro consists mostly of muscular akami. Also called “ahi,” this variety is closely related to the bigeye species of tuna. Yellowfin tuna is a great option for grilling, making tuna steaks or serving as blackened fish. However, yellowfin tuna is also one of the more popular types in canning, which makes it a highly versatile species of maguro.
While yellowfin tuna is used frequently in canning, albacore tuna is by far the most popular form of canned maguro. With a light flesh and mild flavor, albacore’s other name is the chicken of the sea. Albacore maguro is a cool water fish and its other name is “white tuna” due to its pale color. However, diners should be aware of its high mercury content, meaning you shouldn’t overconsume it. This is especially important if you are young or pregnant.