From Reviled To Revered
The tuna has seen its fate soar from a fish not fit to feed the cat to one of the most hunted creatures on earth 金枪鱼（也称鲔鱼）曾被世人唾弃，就连用来喂猫都嫌可耻。 如今，它却是地球上捕猎率最高的海洋生物之一。
All year round, sashimi connoisseurs flock to 15 East in Manhattan to sample some of the best bluefin tuna outside of Japan. One of the most highly rated Japanese restaurants in New York City, 15 East serves only bluefin tuna and is known for its Tuna Flight, a dish consisting of two pieces each of five different cuts of the prized fish, including the meltingly fatty belly, called toro, and the lean, deep-red akami, which comes from the area around the tuna’s spine and tail. At US$80 (S$100) a plate, the dish is not for the budgetconscious.
Owner and chef Marco Moreira says, depending on what time of the year it is or how good the season is in various parts of the world, the restaurant may get its supply of tuna from the Gulf of Mexico, Spain, Japan, locally from Montauk in Long Island or further up the east coast of the United States, from Massachusetts.
That the love for sashimi has crossed oceans from East to West and extended to an appreciation for the king of tuna fish, the bluefin, is both a wonderful and worrying trend — wonderful for how there is a growing appreciation of Japanese cuisine and culinary skills worldwide, and worrying for how unfettered demand can corrupt and deplete the ocean’s precious resources.
After Japan, the United States and China are the world’s biggest tuna consumers. According to Daniel Pauly, professor of fisheries at the Fisheries Centre at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, the entire tuna industry is worth over US$15 billion a year – that is about 20 per cent of the whole fishing industry. Tuna, he adds, usually fetches prices that are at least five times higher than other types of fish.
Tuna species i nclude albacore, skipjack, bigeye, blackfin, yellowfin, longtail and the three species of bluefin, namely Atlantic bluefin, Pacific bluefin and fish are a tough prey because they are large and swim fast. The fishermen have to be very careful when landing their haul too: The tuna must be handled in a way that the skin remains intact and the flesh does not get bruised, because the fish’s external appearance heavily influences the price of the catch.
It takes a highly experienced professional to grade tuna for the sashimi market because only the best-quality, premium fish will fetch the highest price.
First, the skin of the fish is inspected, the method with which it was caught is also considered and the fish is checked for fattiness (when it comes to the belly, the streakier the better), colour and clarity. The tail of the tuna is often cut to show its colour, moisture content and freshness.
Appearance and smell are what top chefs and rest aurateurs l ook for when selecting sashimi-grade tuna from their suppliers. Chef Dan Segall, who helms the kitchens at two of Singapore’s most popular Japanese restaurants, Kinki Restaurant + Bar and Fat Cow, says he only accepts tuna deliveries from his suppliers if the smell and colour of the fish meet his standards.
“Good, fresh tuna smells of seawater, iodine and rust,” he shares. “When I check fish, I take a really deep inhale through my nose and let the smell fill my lungs. If there is anything wrong with the product, my stomach will turn — and that’s a clear sign that it’s not good enough.”
When it comes to the tuna’s appearance, he makes sure that the surface has no dry spots or iridescence, a sign of oxidation. “Bluefin tuna should be a deep red and yellowfin tuna, several shades lighter,” he says. “Ultimately, both should be opaque and saturated with colour.”
According to fifth-generation sushi chef Michiharu Inoue, who owns an Edo-style sushi restaurant called Southern bluefin.
Bluefin, yellowfin, skipjack and big-eye are the most common species of tuna eaten in sashimi, with bluefin being the most delicious and, hence, most popular, while skipjack and albacore are usually used in canned tuna. According to the WWF , as the threat to the bluefin increases, the big-eye looks to be the next mostthreatened specie to meet our dining demands.
You Can Tell From Its Smell
Caught mainly through commercial fishing, with Japan being the most important tuna-fishing country, these
Sushiyoshi in central Tokyo, the best tuna comes from Oma in Japan’s northern Aomori prefecture, and Toi, in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. “My father taught me how to select good tuna. It’s all about the colour, texture, and moisture content of the flesh,” he says.
From Sea To Table
Tsukiji Market in Tokyo is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. The bluefin tuna auction, held in the pre-dawn hours, is by far the most exciting of all the fish auctions that take place there. Over in Australia, auctions are also held every weekday at the Sydney Fish Market, located in the city’s inner west. Sydney Fish Market is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere and the world’s second largest seafood market.
From these and other major wholesale seafood markets around the world, like Fulton Fish Market in New York City and Billingsgate Fish Market in London, different varieties of high-grade tuna are processed, packed and transported immediately to restaurants locally and internationally. “Tuna is really only a ‘market’ fish in Japan and a few other places in the world, mostly because of the size,” says Segall. “The best fish to be found in Singapore are mostly imported directly by the restaurants. Some have their own importing licences and others use distributors.”
If the chef relies on brokers for his supply of tuna, he has to be sure that he can entrust them with selecting the finest fish on his behalf. Says 15 East’s Moreira: “Our tuna brokers or vendors have their own scouters who personally inspect the fish right at the dock. If they ship a tuna that’s not absolutely high quality and beautiful, we have the right of refusal, although this rarely happens. Therefore, I’d say that having a close relationship with your vendors is critical. Without this trust, we could not maintain our standards at 15 East all the time.”
It is then up to another 15 East chef, Masato Shimuzu, to decide if the tuna needs to be aged. If it is too fresh, he may let it age for a day or two. Otherwise, he breaks the fish down into steaks, wraps it in a special absorbent paper, wraps it again in plastic and stores it in a laboratory freezer that can get down to as low as minus 70 deg C. “The tuna is labelled according to the part it is from or its cut and fat content, and we store the packs in separate bins to keep them organised,” adds Moreira.
At his restaurants in Singapore, Segall uses several different types of tuna sourced from various parts of the world. He purchases mostly yellowfin and big-eye, and smaller amounts of bluefin. He says the key to maintaining the flavour of the fish is to keep it cold, dry and protected from oxygen (or it will change colour). “But a very large fish is better if it has been killed several days before it is consumed. The meat needs time to relax from rigor mortis and a bit of cellular breakdown helps to enhance the flavour. It’s very similar to ageing beef.”
In Hawaii, big-eye and yellowfin tuna are commonly used in ahi poke, a salad made from combining raw tuna pieces with sesame oil, spring onions, sliced white onions and shoyu.
Tuna appreciation is not all about eating it raw. Many Japanese rest aurants offer tuna cooked in interesting ways and not always as cuts of meat. Kenji Maenaka, chef and owner of the bodega-style Izakaya Fujiyama in Sydney, says his favourite part of the tuna is around the eyes. “On our menu, we call it the eye socket. It’s more gelatinous than meaty or fatty, and it’s quite a delicacy,” he says. “We grill it to bring out its full flavour and serve it with condiments like ponzu, chilli and chopped shallots.”
The Palate Does Not Lie
Maenaka loves working with tuna because it looks and tastes sublime. It has a rich flavour that is addictive and a beautiful, velvety texture. He also appreciates that the bluefin keeps a little longer than other types of tuna – after all, this is when its best flavours emerge.
“Gorgeous flavour, colour and texture aside, the combination of demand and scarcity is what I think has driven its value sky-high,” Maenaka says. “People want what is difficult to get and with the bluefin, that is becoming increasingly so.”
But it is also important to remember that you get what you pay for, he adds. “You can go to a premium Japanese restaurant and pay a large amount for a few slivers of sashimi or you can go to a chain restaurant and pay a lot less for sashimi served on a conveyor belt.”
The cheaper plate would have come from a less popular type of tuna and a poorer grade of its kind that was deeply frozen and prepared by a chef with less experience.
A trained and experienced sushi chef would be able to tell just from looking at a slab of raw tuna if it meets the standards of a top restaurant. “To the untrained eye, all tuna might look the same but a real professional would be able to tell the difference,” he shares.
生 鱼片老饕们一年四季都会前往美国曼哈 顿的15 East餐馆，品尝日本以外最鲜美 的蓝鳍金枪鱼。这家餐馆是纽约市评价最高的 日本餐馆之一，仅售蓝鳍金枪鱼。其招牌美食 “金枪鱼大游行”，各有两片来自蓝鳍金枪鱼 五个部位的生鱼片，如入口即化的肥美toro鱼 肚，以及取自金枪鱼脊椎和尾巴部位、肉质紧 实呈深红色的akami生鱼片。此佳肴售价80美 元（100新元）一碟，令有预算限制的食客们 望门兴叹。
餐馆创办人兼主厨马克莫雷拉（Marco Moreira）说，他会根据不同季节及世界各地 海产的优劣，来决定是从墨西哥湾、西班牙、 日本、纽约长岛蒙托克，或美国东海岸一带的 马萨诸塞州等地区引进金枪鱼。
人们对生鱼片的热爱，已从东方跨越到 西 方 ， 而 他 们 对 鲔 鱼 之 王 —— 蓝 鳍 金 枪 鱼 的 喜爱，是一个既美好又令人担忧的趋势。美 好的是，日本料理及其烹饪技巧在世界各地 越来越受重视，但令人担忧的是，人们对生 鱼片的无限需求，很有可能破坏及消耗这珍 贵的海洋资源。
继日本之后，美国和中国是全世界最大的 金枪鱼消费国。据温哥华英属哥伦比亚大学渔 业中心的丹尼尔保利（Daniel Pauly）博士透 露，金枪鱼市场每年价值超过150亿美元—— 约整个捕鱼业市场的20％。他补充说，金枪鱼 的价格比其他鱼种高出至少五倍。
金枪鱼的种类包括：长鳍金枪鱼 （albacore）、鲣鱼（skipjack）、大目鲔、 黑鳍金枪鱼、黄鳍金枪鱼、长尾金枪鱼及三种 蓝鳍金枪鱼，即大西洋蓝鳍金枪鱼、太平洋蓝 鳍金枪鱼和南部蓝鳍金枪鱼。
蓝鳍、黄鳍、鲣鱼和大目鲔是生鱼片中 最常见的金枪鱼类，其中以蓝鳍金枪鱼最为美 味，故最受欢迎。鲣鱼和长鳍金枪鱼则普遍用 于罐装金枪鱼的制作。世界自然基金会资料显 示，随着蓝鳍金枪鱼面临的威胁加剧，为了继 续满足饕客的需求，大目鲔可能成为下一个濒 危鱼类。
供应商主要以商业捕捞方式捕获金枪鱼，而日 本是最重要的金枪鱼捕捞国之一。由于金枪鱼 体形庞大又游得非常快，捕捞过程相当艰巨。 此外，渔民在处理所收获的金枪鱼时也必须非 常小心，因为它们的外观会直接影响售价。故 此，渔民会小心翼翼搬运金枪鱼，以确保其鱼 皮和肉身完美无缺。
鱼贩首先会检查鱼皮、脂肪含量（鱼肚 呈现的条纹越多越好）、色泽和清晰度，其捕 捞方式也要考虑在内。他们常将金枪鱼尾巴割 断，以观察其色泽、水润和新鲜度。
顶级厨师和餐馆老板们主要依据金枪鱼的 外形和气味，来选择生鱼片级的金枪鱼。新加 坡两家广受欢迎的日本餐馆Kinki Restaurant + Bar和Fat Cow的主厨丹席格（Dan Segall） 说，他只跟供应商购买气味和色泽符合自己标 准的金枪鱼。
席格分享心得时说：“优质、新鲜的金 枪鱼带有海水、碘和生锈的气味。故此，检 查金枪鱼时，我会深深将其味吸进鼻子里， 让气味充斥肺部。如果我的胃感觉不舒畅， 这便是一个非常明显的迹象，表示这条鱼不 够好。”
此外，他也会确保金枪鱼表面没有枯斑或 晕彩等氧化迹象。他说：“蓝鳍金枪鱼的肉质 应该是深红色的，黄鳍金枪鱼的色调则较浅。 最重要的是，两者的肉质不应透光且色泽饱和 度要高。”
在东京市中心创办江户式寿司店 Sushiyoshi的第五代寿司师傅Michiharu Inoue 透露，最好的金枪鱼来自日本北部青森县 （Aomori）的Oma，以及北海道最北端的 Toi。他说：“父亲教我如何选择优质的金 枪鱼。其色泽、纹理和肉质的水润度非常重 要。”
位于东京的築地鱼市场是世界最大的鱼类和海 鲜批发市场。在这里于黎明前举行的蓝鳍金枪 鱼拍卖最令人兴奋。位于澳大利亚悉尼市中心 西部的悉尼鱼市场，同样也在每周日举行类似 的鱼类拍卖会。悉尼鱼市场不但是南半球最大 的海鲜市场，也是世界第二大海鲜批发市场。
除此之外，纽约市的Fulton鱼市和伦敦的 Billingsgate鱼市等世界各地主要海鲜批发市 场，也有份供应和包装运送不同种类的高级金 枪鱼至当地和海外餐馆。Segall说：“介于金 枪鱼的体型，它在日本和世界其他地方被定位 为‘市场’鱼。在新加坡所品尝到最美味的鱼 类，主要由餐馆直接进口。它们一部分拥有自 己的进口许可证，另一些则通过经销商。”
若厨师需通过中间人提供金枪鱼，那他必 须确保自己可以委托他们代替他挑选品质最好 的鱼类。15 East餐馆创办人Moreira说：“我 们的金枪鱼经销商会委派自己的员工亲自到码 头检验鱼类。若他们将非顶级品质且不美观的 金枪鱼出货给我们，我们绝对有拒绝的权利， 但这种情况极少发生。餐馆业主与供应商保持 密切关系至关重要，因为如果双方没有互信， 我们是无法长久地维持15 East的水准的。”
该餐馆另一名主厨Masato Shimuzu负责催 化金枪鱼。如果金枪鱼太新鲜，他会让它“老 化”一至两天。要不然，他会将金枪鱼切块， 用特殊吸水纸包裹，再用塑料封装并存储在一 个可低至零下70摄氏度的冷冻室。Moreira 补 充道：“我们会根据鱼块原本的部位和切割及 其脂肪含量有条理地储放在不同的盒子里。”
Segall的新加坡餐馆选购来自世界各地不 同种类的金枪鱼，它们主要是黄鳍金枪鱼和大 目鲔。此外，Segall也会购买小数量的蓝鳍金 枪鱼。他透露保持鱼肉鲜美的关键就是将它们 储存在冰冷、干燥的地方，且尽量不要让它们 与空气接触（否则鱼肉会变色）。“但一条非 常大的金枪鱼最好是在它被杀数日后才享用， 因为我们需要时间让僵直的肉质放松，而且一 小部分的细胞组织瓦解有助提味。这与催化牛 肉相似。”
在夏威夷，人们普遍用大目鲔和黄鳍金 枪鱼来制成一道有金枪鱼生鱼片、芝麻油、青 葱、切片白洋葱和酱油的ahi poke沙拉。
想学习品味金枪鱼不见得非得将它生 吃。许多日式餐馆就推出不少有趣的金枪鱼 熟食佳肴。位于悉尼的酒窖式居酒屋Izakaya
Fujiyama 创办人兼主厨前中健志表示自己最 喜欢的金枪鱼部位是它的眼睛。 他说：“我 们在餐单上称这道菜为眼窝。它的肉质带胶 状，不太肥沃，且十分美味。我们会烧烤它以 带出其风味，再以柑橘酱、辣椒和切碎的葱头 作为调味。”
Maenaka喜爱以金枪鱼为食材，因为它的外 观和味道都是顶级的。它不但具有非常丰富且 容易令人上瘾的味道，其肉质更如天鹅绒般顺 滑。他也很欣慰地发现，蓝鳍金枪鱼的储存期 比其他种类的金枪鱼更长，此时，它的味道也 最美好。
他说：“除了金枪鱼的美味、色泽和质 感，我认为其需求和稀缺是推动它价格不断升 高的因素。人们想要得到难以获取的东西，蓝 鳍金枪鱼因此越来越物以稀为贵。”
他不忘提醒，一分钱，一份货的道理。 “你可以选择到高档日本餐馆享用几片非常昂 贵的生鱼片，或到一家连锁餐馆享用在传送带 上销售的廉价生鱼片。”
一名受过训练且经验丰富的寿司师傅只 需看一眼生金枪鱼，便能知道它是否符合顶级 餐馆的标准。他分享道：“对未经训练的人来 说，所有的金枪鱼看似相同，但一个真正的专 业师傅一眼便能分辨出来。”
Tuna are strong swimmers, thanks to their powerful fins and tail. (Photo: Getty Images)
新鲜上岸等待下一个“行程”的金枪鱼。 ( Photo: Getty Images)