about that otoro…

The pic on my first post was of otoro.  I took this pic in one of my favourite sushi spots in Ginza, where I love to take first timers in Japan.  Usually I prefer to take people who profess to dislike sushi.  The look on their face is amazing when they try their first few pieces.  They notice the little things: like how the fish (neta) is cool and how the rice (shari) is slightly warm.  They notice that in a good sushi shop in Japan the wasabi tastes quite different – it is grated several times throughout the night on a small sharkskin grater. This is called nama wasabi (nama means fresh). Before I came to Japan, I was not a big fan of sushi either.

Back to the otoro.  Toro means belly and the “o” means great, as in large.  The most expensive part of the tuna is the belly.  The bright red stuff you normally see is called akami.  Toro is usually divided into otoro and chutoro (chu in this case means middle). 

So why is it so popular?  Texture and flavour are both quite unlike anything else.

The flavour is stronger than other parts of tuna.  The flavour is long and smooth.  The aroma and richness seems to fill you.  I like to crush the piece against my palate and draw in a long deep breath through my nose to savour the aroma.  This is fat of a consistency that seems to melt in your mouth.  Other fish may have fat – but not at this consistency.

Texture in this case is governed by the fat content- that is, the very HIGH fat content.  You can tell from the colour that it is almost like bacon.  The pinkness comes from the fat and the white sections are pure fat – they hold together the pink segments of flesh, not unlike pork belly.  A good sushi chef sometimes manipulates the piece of fish so the firmer pink sections are sticking up a little and the white sections are falling away, giving a slight zig-zag profile down the piece. 



I might make a number of posts about this particular cut of tuna – god knows, I am also going to make several posts about the cheek and head sections of the tuna.


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