Searching for Sushi Grade Seafood

Oh, yes, now I remember reading this article
when someone posted it last year. Maybe my brain will retain it a second time. Thanks.

1 Like

Everything AND the ‘oink’!

2 Likes

All itamae worth a lick age (to some extent) all their fish

I’ve been a fisherman all my life. One thing that always surprises people I give fish to or people new to fishing is that fish is NOT at its peak the day you catch it – not by a mile. Actually, fish day-of-catch is kinda bad. All fish needs some time to relax, depending on the type of fish and what you’re using it for, it could peak after just one night or it could be 5 or more days before it peaks.

Tuna, particularly otoro, peaks right before it spoils. Local yellowtail (which is hiramasa, NOT hamachi) is downright crunchy when eaten raw within the first couple days of catching. Not pleasant.

And I’m not doing any fancy complex dry aging process, this is just a combination of leaving the fish thoroughly on ice for a few days before cracking it or leaving the fillets on ice and/or in the fridge for a few days after filleting.

Dry aging supposedly enhances the benefits of the few days’ age I do, and I’m super curious to see for myself, but my point in general is that no itamae is going to serve you a truly fresh fish because they’re gross, even if it was logistically feasible to do so.

A good itamae would know exactly how many days old the fish is and how it was handled from catch to plate, and often would do some further aging in house until the texture and flavor peaks. Knowing that timing is a big part of the skill of the chef.

17 Likes

Interesting and helpful. Thanks @Eater15!

Agreed on all topics, seems like a general misconception that “the fresher, the better”.

The only counterpoint I’ll make is that some people(regions/ethnicity) actually prefer that crunchy texture. Which is why see quite a few restaurants that serve live or just killed fish. In my limited experience I find that traditionally Koreans prefer quite a bit more bite to their sushi depending on the fish and person of course. Secondly, I think your point is limited to finfish because the other exception to this rule is live/fresh shellfish but that may be obvious to most.

3 Likes

does this apply to hikarimono like saba?

1 Like

Yes, it’s possible. Kimura-san has been known to age his sardines up to 10 days.

… with the one exception possibly being live fish prepared ikizukuri-style…

1 Like

I remember talking to Maru-san and he said that the smaller the fish, the better it is fresh.

I’m unsure if they increase in flavor/texture after a few days of going through rigor or if much changes besides a general breaking down of shelf life. I think you’re more likely to see them broken down quickly into fillets and used in a more traditional kombujime or brine/cure/marinade, etc if anything but @Eater15 might have better insight into those fish because we don’t use them often in our lineup.

Additionally, hikarimono tend to be on the smaller end of the spectrum as far as fish size goes(with some minor exceptions) so I know there’s not much benefit from dry aging to my knowledge generally and the relaxing of the muscles after death should be a much shorter time line.

I’ve always heard for saba, “the fresher, the better” because it spoils so quickly. is saba not at its peak freshly caught?

1 Like

It will spoil faster.

I believe if it killed ikejime, it will stay fresh a little longer and keep the meat more flavorful so it doesn’t have to be eaten so soon after it is killed.

1 Like

I know that it’s common practice to use the ikejime method on seki saba but I’m unsure how much of that stuff makes it stateside as costs are usually huge over more readily available saba from other regions.

He’s doing a zoom talk with Now Serving just saw and thought of this topic

1 Like

Oh cool. Thanks!

Yeah I would agree I was too absolute in my statement that ALL fish is aged to some extent, ikizukiri and shellfish are exceptions for sure

Hikarimono is aged, as I said, to some extent in that it is generally cured first. I would consider the curing process a form of aging, even if it can be done in just a few hours. The times I have done it myself I let the fish rest another day after curing as I feel it is improved.

I think the smaller the fresher is a good rule of thumb. But even small fish are better after after at least a day, by and large. This includes cooked fish too. If you cook a small, white-fleshed fish they day you catch it, you’ll likely find it wants to curl up badly and the texture is rubbery.

Obviously ikizukiri is only done with particular fish and it’s a niche thing, personally I think it’s more for show than it is something designed to maximize deliciousness. I know taste is in the mouth of the be-taster, but for me I wonder if (not unlike other notorious Asian delicacies) it isn’t more about the show and the experience. Because I can’t imagine any fish being best to eat right after killing it. Honestly I can’t.

3 Likes

FWIW, the term sushi grade is understood to mean safe to be consumed raw and has nothing to do with the actual quality of the fish (marbling, tone, etc.) - but there are no explicit regulations that define the term. having said that, the FDA has regulations concerning how fish is to be handled prior to serving but that’s it. these guidelines include the freezing of fish in order to guarantee the killing or parasites - for most fish species - but interestingly, not necessary if there’s sufficient empirical evidence that the risk to eating that species of particular provenance has proven to be safe over time. otherwise, fish are bled, gutted & flash frozen with eight hours of leaving the water in order to comply with the FDA’s “Parasite Destruction Guarantee”.

fish such as salmon are safer if they’re farm raised; control of the feed will prevent parasites, but the quality of the flesh is typically deemed inferior to that of salmon raised in the wild.

the process of dry-aging as i understand it has the goal of reducing the level of moisture in the fish, which results in concentrating the flavor.

and of course, anything that’s spent time in fresh water (including wild caught salmon) is always at risk for parasites and should never be eaten raw straight from the water.

interestingly, there are some things that are done to help maximize the quality of fish. for example, whole fish are stored in ice in the same orientation that they maintain in the water, ventral side down to keep one side of the fish from being crushed and to control how the innards settle. and when filleted, the fillets should touch others as little as possible. these are things that should be observed by your fishmonger, BTW.

2 Likes

Courtesy of @Ns1. :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

Sorry to be redundant, but my reply in The Sale Thread seemed just as applicable here:

2 Likes