Eating Horse?

19/02/2009

I am just trying to put a picture up of some basashi.  Basashi is horsemeat served like sashimi.  It sounds different but it is actually very common in Japan and quite delicious.  A lot, if not most, of izakayas serve basashi.  I suppose over the course of the year they all would serve it at some time because of seasonal changes to the menu. 

Raw horse rump at the top left and horse ham centre right

Raw horse rump at the top left and horse ham centre right

 

Horse meat is a really important part of European cuisine as well.  In Puglia, for example, horse meat is the main traditional red meat.  Horse meat has its own subtle flavour and can bring an interesting angle to a meal.  Since changes in flavour and texture are so important in Japanese cuisine, it plays a really important role.

 

I read that Australia processes and exports about 30,000 horses for consumption in Japan.  A bizarre fact is that it is illegal to serve horse in Australia – even though it is a delicious and healthy part of a meal.  Even more bizarrely, no reason is put forward as to why it might be illegal.  It is perfectly healthy and if it wasn’t humane, we wouldn’t be allowed to export it, would we? 

 

Unexplained, ignorant laws like this are part of why food in places like Australia and the US lags a long way behind Japan, France and Italy.  Gordon Ramsay promoted the eating of horse in the UK and I wish he would do the same in Australia.  I am not advocating that it be made compulsory!  But at least it should be an option for those whoe horizons are a little wider.

about that otoro…

18/02/2009

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. 

otoro

otoro

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.

the beginning

18/02/2009

Well, the point of this is to rant about a few things.  Food Mostly.

Some topics I want to cover are about Japanese food in general, sushi, restaurants where I live, where to go for great food and some food trends.  I also will try to put up some pics of great food…  And also some pics of me making pasta, making my own sausages and struggling with my shichirin.

otoro

otoro

Mostly I intend to read it and agree with it myself!