The Thing You Learned Today: The Deconstruction Of Tuna

The June issue of Vanity Fair features a fascinating article about the journey that tuna meat undergoes, from the fishing boat to the sushi chef. It’s an absolute must-read for anyone remotely interested in fish, fish markets, sushi, Japanese culture and/or merely food in general. Here are some select tidbits:

• On the history of bluefin tuna, currently one of the world’s most prized fishes: “Until the summer of 1972, bluefin tuna was basically worthless to American fishermen. Nobody ever ate it, and its sole commercial use was as an ingredient in canned cat food. The only tuna that people ate, the white stuff, also in cans, was processed from smaller, albacore tuna, and even that probably would not have gotten into the American diet if a California cannery hadn’t run out of sardines and begun selling it in 1903.”

• On the early morning auction at the Tsukiji fish market (pictured): “Tuna is the main event at Tsukiji, but everything from the sea—fresh fish, live fish, shrimp—is auctioned and sold here. At five in the morning, preceding the tuna auction, in another hall, there’s the sea-urchin-roe auction. The most prized uni come from Hokkaido and its islands, and it’s said that if you want to taste the best, freshest uni you must go there and eat it straight from the sea.”

• On just how much the two million kilograms of seafood handled per day by the Tsukiji fish market really is: “Two million kilos is about four and a half million pounds, more than 2,000 tons. The Fulton Fish Market, in New York City, the second-largest fish market in the world, moves only 115 tons a year, an average of less than half a ton each working day.”

The article goes to expound the history, evolution and Western rise of sushi, as the author tours the sublime marketplace (seeing all types of sea bounty, among them “sea pineapples” and whale meat), witnesses the auctioning of bluefin (“The tuna weighed 200 kilos. At ¥100,000 per kilo, the possessed bidder had paid ¥20 million—the equivalent of more than $170,000—for a fish whose parceled meat could never recoup that amount”) and contemplates the problematic future of fishing.

Just read it, ok? It is the ultimate sushi experience.

If You Knew Sushi [Vanity Fair]

[Photo courtesy: Wikitravel]

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The Thing You Learned Today: The Deconstruction Of Tuna