Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Seafood show part 2: cutting up tuna loin

Enough about politics. Let's talk about food for a change. The booth that impressed me the most at the Seafood show was True World Foods (above picture is their fish display). They supply seafood to really upscale restaurants. The raw fish samples they were giving out were very good. Here is what I tasted from them.

Big-eye tuna was lean but had good texture (very impressive considering the fact that it was previously frozen). They gave me their shpeal on how they blast it with O2 rather than CO2 to preserve the color. It was definitely the best tuna at the show. Though I'll be honest with you -- none of the tuna at the show was particularly impressive. It was all too lean. Yuji Haraguchi from True World was the most accessible sushi chef I've ever talked to. He saw me sketching a diagram of the tuna loin as he was cutting it up and agreed to do it again slowly so that I could take step by step pictures.

You set the tuna on your board skin-side down (the skin is already removed by now) and cut it crosswise into chunks about 7 inch long.

Then you make a slice parallel to the board to remove the top 1.5-2 inches of the loin.

Then make another cut parallel to the board to remove another 1.5-2 inches.

The slice closest to the board often has a lot of connective tissue that is cut out with a curvy stroke. This part is usually chopped up for rolls.

Now you have 3 tuna planks. The next step is to cut them lengthwise into rectangular pieces (about an inch apart).

These are the strips you see in a display case at sushi restaurants. To cut them for sashimi, just go against the grain. For nigiri, you have to angle the knife a bit to make wider pieces. Here are sashimi slices.

I've been dying to learn this for years! I think I'll bring a sketch pad with me more often. I had a friend who got an upgrade on his tasting menu at Charlie Trotter's and got to meet the whole kitchen crew just by sketching what he was eating :)

What else was good? The tastiest fish I had at the show was probably True World Food's hamachi. Very nice, juicy and firm (not previously frozen, which is hard to find). Their sea bream was good too.

Do you know what this little root vegetable is that's sitting on top of lemons?

Fresh wasabi! You read that right, not the powder stuff you get everywhere but the real root. This is the first time I had it. It was tasty -- much more complex and less hot than the powder stuff, but I wouldn't pay $90/Lb for it :)

Apparently, there is one restaurant in Boston who serves is. Take a wild guess which one. O Ya, of course. If your restaurant bill doesn't look like half your monthly mortgage payment, you are probably not getting real wasabi.

What else did I eat that was good? Kona kampachi was yummy as always. Still as unavailable and as unaffordable as always, but that might all change in a couple of years. They have plans for creating a farm in Mexico, which would make transportation to US mainland much more affordable than from Hawaii.

Oysters and raw clams from Aquanor were tasty. This is the first time I have really enjoyed them. I am not usually a big oyster person. I love texture in foods, but oysters are something you just swallow, so it always felt like I was missing something. I can't say that I'd chose oysters over tuna now (no way ;) but I think they are growing on me.

Yukon River hot smoked Keta salmon from Kwik'Pak was outstanding. I've had so much terrible smoked salmon at the show that it was a pleasant surprise to try theirs. Very buttery and delicate -- probably due to Keta's unbelievable fat content.

Shrimp from CleanFish Alliance were awesome -- very sweet with no iodine aftertaste that usually bothers me about most shrimp. I hear that Marden's carries some of their products (just not shrimp). I'll try to encourage them to get shrimp too.

Whitefish and Pike roe from Fresh Water Fish Corp. -- pleasant texture that feels like an explosion of little bubbles in your mouth, low salt (compared to most caviar), and very affordable (comparable to salmon row).

Overall, there was way more terrible food than good food at the show: tons of deep-fried, overcooked, under-salted, and deeply disturbing products. Fake caviar (made out of processed fish) was probably the scariest thing I tried -- they told me it was fake after it was already in my mouth and they saw a look on my face.

If you are wondering whether I got the answers to the list of questions I put together before the show, stay tuned. That's my next post.


Anonymous said...

Great post! I can't believe you had bad tasting fish at a seafood show. You would've thought the exhibitors would have done their best. Do you think it was their low quality product or did you just not like how it was prepared?

Helen said...

Hi Joanne,

The seafood show is when the whole fish industry comes together (from high end to low end). The folks who make frozen fish entrees, fish sticks, microwavable fish soups, etc. are all there. Cost cutting is a huge issue for the buyers trying to find new products. One of the fish distributors told me that their fish was frozen whole on the boat, then shipped to china, defrosted, filleted, refrozen, and shipped to US. It's a perfect way to cut costs, but you can imagine how good that would taste. Keep in mind, it's a marketing event, not a culinary one.


Unknown said...

You don't have to just swallow oysters! You can totally chew them!

Helen said...

Hi Diana,

I'll try that next time. Are there any particular types of oysters that you like?


Nadira said...

I agree with Diana: chew, chew, chew!

My favorite oysters are kumamotos from the west coast, with Wellfleets a close second. I've had some great oysters from RI as well, usually from places that (like Wellfleet) have a mix of salt and fresh water.

Ken said...


FYI, you can also get freshly grated wasabi at Douzo in my neighborhood. It's $5 extra but worth it if you're doing mostly a sashimi experience.
The seafood show sounds like lots of fun. What ticket did you end up getting? Sounds like you'd have to get at least the $150 silver passport to get everywhere?

Mike V said...

Hi Joanne,
Last time I was in Japan we ate at a restaurant that specialized in fresh wasabe for all their sashimi dishes. Each table had their own grater like the one I saw in your pictures. What was truely outstanding (and unexpected) was wasabe ice cream for dessert. The freshness of the flavor is hard to describe - it is memorable.