From Re­viled To Revered

深海巨星

ZbBZ (Singapore) - - 期精华 IN THIS ISSUE - TEXT Sasha Gonzales / 郭莎莎 Bluefin tuna are mas­sive and can grow up to sev­eral me­tres in length. (Photo: Getty Im­ages)

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。

气味判等级

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。

唯有经验丰富的鱼贩才能辩别金枪鱼的等 级,因为只有品质最优的鱼种才能卖出高价。

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。”

从深海到餐桌

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。”

味蕾不说谎

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。”

后者大多数选用较不受欢迎且级别较低的 冷冻金枪鱼,并由经验浅的厨师来预备处理。

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)

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