When it comes to the best sushi, the star of the dish will always be maguro or tuna. The raw red meat from the sea is succulent, bursting with “umami,” and loaded with omega 3 fatty acids. And compared to other fish, tuna stands out for having the best flavour and aroma.
But, despite the popularity of maguro as an offering in the best sushi restaurants, not a lot of gastronomes are aware that there are different layers to its flavour. They usually order it either as the featured ingredient of their sushi or sashimi to enjoy its natural taste. This is such a limited experience because there are so many nuances to the fish, which are created by the time of the year they’re caught and the cut of the meat.
According to top chefs, tuna as the king of fish offers offer wonderfully diverse flavours. Therefore, everybody should enjoy it other than in their regular order of sushi or sashimi. And, there are different kinds of Japanese dishes that deliciously feature maguro or tuna.
So, if you want to get more enjoyment out of eating maguro, listed below are the best dishes you should try.
1.Grilled kama or gill flesh
The gill flesh of tuna is thick and rich in flavour. When grilled, it remains soft because of its healthy fat content. Even if it’s only seasoned with salt and pepper, it’s greatly satisfying. Most Japanese restaurants do not serve this tuna dish, but if you find one that does, make sure to order it.
Grilled kama is, of course, perfect with steamed rice, but many like to pair it as well with a fresh green salad.
2.Uncured maguro ham
This is a rare dish that you can usually only find around Katsuura Fishing Port in Japan. It uses the meat of long-fin tuna, which is cured in a way that moisture is removed, but the quality of meat is preserved.
Uncured maguro ham looks a lot like prosciutto. It tastes like ham and has no fishy smell at all. It is often used as a topping for salads, and it goes well with egg dishes, soup, and other appetizers as well.
3.Marinated red meat sushi
This traditional sushi dish makes use of a small slice of tuna that’s been marinated in soy sauce. It’s a very basic recipe, but the saltiness of the soy sauce interacts beautifully with the fat of the fish, which releases a much deeper flavour.
If you want a dish that will take you back to the Edo period of Japan, this is definitely the one to try.
4.Throat meat sashimi
The throat meat of tuna is rarely used for sushi and sashimi because of its tougher consistency. But, if you are all about exploring the many flavours of maguro, this is worth trying out.
The throat meat’s taste has this beefy quality, and it has a crunchier texture. It’s sprinkled with green onions for a bit more crunch as well as to enhance the freshness of the meat.
5.Pan-fried maguro tail steak
This is a dish that is gaining global popularity. The tail of the maguro often has that gamier flavour and texture, but when pan-fried just right is simply divine.
Also, the maguro tail is loaded with collagen, which makes it a fantastic anti-aging food. Taste-wise though, the collagen gives the fish a “meatier” flavour – not fishy at all. Plus, the flesh is tender, and it glistens with healthy oils. It does not get dry even if you do not eat it right away, which cannot be said for regular fried fish.
This is another traditional dish that features maguro. A lot of people enjoy this dish during cold nights or after a round of drinks. Thick slices of oo-toro maguro, which is the softest meat of tuna, are cooked in stock along with seaweed, seasonal vegetables, and green onions.
This dish has a refreshingly sweet flavour that highlights the fattiness of the oo-toro.
This much-beloved appetizer combines small chunks of maguro, spring onion curls, Japanese mayo, seasoning, pepper, and tempura flakes. It offers multiple layers of texture and flavour that appeal to both the young and old.
Tuna tartare is light and fresh, and the perfect starter for Japanese combo sets.
Apart from these authentic Japanese dishes, there are also fusion dishes featuring maguro that are also worth trying. Chefs are not yet done exploring all the possibilities with maguro. For sure, there are more exciting dishes to keep an eye out for.
So, when you go to the best Japanese restaurant in your area, venture out of your gastronomic comfort zone every once in a while. As delicious as the typical maguro sushi and sashimi are, do not limit your experience with tuna to these two – experiment with other dishes that feature tuna. Who knows, you may discover new favourites to intensify your love for the king of fish.
Chiara Bisignani is the F&B Marketing Executive at Saadiyat Beach Club. She oversees website maintenance, PR requests, marketing initiatives and all general guests’ enquiries for the company’s destinations of KOI Restaurant & Lounge, Boa Steakhouse and Caramel Restaurant and Lounge in Abu Dhabi.