Albacore tuna sushi is not something that many people have eaten in the past, and this is not surprising at all.
You see, it wasn’t until recently that many sushi restaurants started offering this meal as an option. And for those people who have to taste something before they venture into cooking it, it means that we got left behind and locked out of the wonders of this fish. But we cannot blame anyone really as there is a lot more to this absence than we initially thought.
For one, coming across albacore sushi is not easy as these fish are not in plenty. You would think that with the numerous species of fish circling in the waters in Japan that finding one type would be a breeze but it’s not. So I more than understand why I had to wait all these years to come across this fish. But I am getting ahead of myself and should start by introducing you to albacore.
What is Albacore? How Much Do You Know About It?
Have you had tuna in the past? Did you like it? I know I sure did so imagine my delight on learning that albacore is a small tuna. That’s right. You do not have to go very far as per your imagination.
All you have to do is picture tuna then resize it, and there you have albacore! But it’s not all that easy seeing as these two species have many differences, but the explanation does help with the visuals.
Think of tuna as the cousin to albacore.
Whereas tuna prefer to live in the cold currents where it can thrive, albacore loves the warm currents. Owing to this, it has a different appearance from that of tuna to a given extent. For one, it is quite soft and buttery, and its flesh is quite flaky.
Also, where tuna tends to be very intense regarding taste, albacore is quite mild and is thus an excellent option for people who try to avoid strong flavors.
However, this otherwise perfect fish faced some challenges upon its entrance into the food industry. Do you remember the part where I stated that its flesh was soft? Well, it also happens to be pale, and you know what that looks like; old tuna! Chefs could not wrap their heads around using albacore for sushi owing to this reason, and many shunned the idea at first.
Over time, they gave in to the concept and started using it and boy, am I glad they did! But the first time you see this fish, you’ll probably think the same thing, no matter how fresh it is. It’s a bummer, seeing as how it is so delightful on the palate.
The one thing that helped chefs rethink their stand on using albacore was that they came up with a way to tighten the flesh. They would start by grilling the entire fish as it was such that the surface cooked in the heat. From here, they would dunk the fish into ice water, and this resulted in firm flesh that they could now prepare.
If you come across anyone talking about a tataki method to make the albacore easier to work with, this is what they mean. If you wish to prepare an albacore sushi roll, you should try out this technique which works 100% of the time.
And it’s not just the softness that goes away when you use this method. You also get other added benefits. For one, the flavor intensifies owing to the fast heating process and for this reason; you can enjoy it as sushi. Also, the aroma somehow intensifies, and you can delight in how tasty it is.
There are high chances that you could come across this sushi and not realize it as some people market it as bintoro. The reason behind this naming is that the albacore has a texture similar to that of the fatty tuna.
Though they may differ regarding how lean the albacore is, they both have soft flesh. When making sushi using this fish, consider using ponzu to help reduce the effects of aroma loss owing to tataki.
One of the best ways to enjoy this fish is as albacore nigiri as I will detail. However, before I get into that, let me first take you through the key differences between albacore and tuna as my earlier explanation may have been too hasty.
Tuna vs. Albacore
It is not a secret that many people have taken to tuna over the recent years. There are those who cannot get enough of it owing to how good it tastes as well as the numerous ways in which they can prepare it. And then there is the second group that is all about the health benefits that the can source from the food.
The good thing about tuna is that there are so many options available. We had the yellowfin and the skipjack, the bonito, the bluefin and a range of other species.
Related article: Bonito Sushi: A Seasonal Treat
Before, it was a simple matter of ‘you don’t like bigeye?
Well then, have the blackfin!’ And now we have albacore in the mix, meaning we have a lot more to explore regarding what our taste buds love most.
It is interesting to note that people selling albacore will market it as white meat. I had my doubts as to the authenticity of these claims before I realized that of all the tunas, it was the most white. Some people think of it as white tuna and owing to this; it does not take long for one to see why its price tag is a little heftier than that of the regular tuna fish.
In the US, the albacore tuna ranks high, coming in second after the yellowfin. Though people were not all that open to using it in the past, you will find that it features a lot in sushi bars at present. You can have it as sushi or sashimi, both of which are delicious meals that will have you heading in for seconds.
When compared to regular tuna, albacore wins on many fronts. For one, it contains way more omega-3 fatty acids than the former. For this reason, it is a healthy choice for anyone looking to consume foods that are heart-friendly. Some studies also show that eating albacore can help you fight off a few cancers.
Though a high amount of fatty acids points to a lot of fat in the white tuna sushi as well as a large number of calories present, this is not a problem as all the fat in play is the healthy kind.
The FDA recently conducted a test on albacore in a bid to test its mercury levels, following suspicions by people that the fish had way more than the maximum permitted level. It turns out that the levels are okay. However, not all albacore fish that you come across will boast of the same nutrients.
Think of it this way.
The fish undergo different procedures when it comes to packaging and for this reason; they come into contact with various chemicals which in turn affect their quality. You may find that the filler in which the fish comes has aided in the degradation of its taste.
And it’s not only the fillers that have a part in the quality. It turns out that the size of the fish will ultimately determine whether or not it is tasty. The smaller ones tend to taste better than the large ones.
Boiling down to the significant differences between albacore and regular tuna, the former has a non-fishy taste that appeals to people who prefer mild flavors.
Also, it has a non-metallic taste that is characteristic of regular tuna. Additionally, it has a soft flesh with which one can efficiently work. Lastly, albacore is a specific fish whereas tuna is an umbrella term that houses a broad range of fish species.
I hope that this section helped clear up some of the questions that people tend to have as to what differentiates albacore from tuna and why someone would choose one over the other. Let’s make some nigiri!
An Amazing Albacore Sushi Recipe
I will start this recipe by scaring you a little, and I believe that this will only work to help you get the most out of the albacore. Making nigiri is not an easy task, and many have attempted the art and failed many a time.
It all comes down to the technique which if you master, helps you make delicacies within minutes. It is not a surprise that many chefs across the globe dedicate hours of training to get this meal right.
With nigiri, it is all about the perfect balance.
You see, you need to apply pressure on the albacore to ensure that it does not fall apart as people are enjoying the meal. You should also pay attention to the tiny details as well as work on pairing the fish with suitable flavorings to get it right. Failure to do these things results in having to start from the beginning, and thus a lot of fish goes to waste.
However, the entire process does not have to be terrifying as all you need to do is to exercise caution and all will be well. The recipe I am about to share will help you make amazing home-made albacore sushi that will have people marveling at your kitchen skills.
The more you prepare the dish, the easier it will be for you to perfect the technique and the better quality sushi you will make in the future.
What do you need?
- Sushi rice
- Pickled ginger
- Lukewarm water
You will note that I have not listed the amounts of each ingredient as it all comes down to preferences. Play about with the flavors to see what balance works out for you. Also, the lack of amounts means that you can make as much sushi as you would like once you perfect the skill. I advise that you start with a quarter kilo before moving on to bigger sizes.
For people who are not aware of what nigiri is, it is a term used to refer to hand-pressed sushi. You press the sushi rice and add some wasabi and fish on top, and voila, you have a meal in your hands.
You will start by making sushi rice and this should take about ninety minutes of your time so be sure to factor this in as you prepare the fish. Once the rice is ready, you can now gather the other ingredients and place them on the table.
Additionally, you will need a chef’s knife, a cutting board, and a damp towel. The sushi rice is quite sticky and may prove hard to work with and to prevent any sticking; you should wet your hands. In this way, you can quickly shape the rice.
When it comes to rice-shaping, you want to work with small amounts as they will prove to be less tedious. Start with twenty-five grams of rice and shape it into an oval. Place the rice between your palm and the base of your fingers. Next, use your thumb to press on the rice as this will enable you to keep the shape steady.
As you do so, work on the sides using your thumb and your other hand’s middle finger. Now push the rice down using your index finger and rotate the shape. You will need to repeat these stages three more times before the rice is ready. You know that it is ready when it is flaky and firm as this will ensure that it does not fall apart.
If it feels dense, it will be chewy. If it feels loose, it will come apart. You need to strike a balance between the two extremes. It will take a while, but once you get it right, there will be no stopping you.
You can now take the albacore and thinly slice it to create smooth-edged pieces. Place a slice on your hand and dab some wasabi at its core. You can now place one mound of rice onto the fish and press it down to allow it to stick. The wasabi will help in this regard. Flip the sushi such that the albacore faces up and repeat the steps you used in making the rice shape three times.
The albacore sushi is now ready, and you can present it to your loved ones as you play along with various dipping sauces. Thank you for reading. All the best of luck in making your meals a sushi feast!