From albacore to ahi, what to buy and how to cook it
Fresh tuna is swimming in many channels these days, from sushi rolls in supermarket delis, to seared ahi on restaurant menus, to sashimi in popular sushi bars. Perhaps because it’s often served raw or nearly raw and in Japanese preparations, the fish can be intimidating to the average cook. But it’s easy to master the basics. Rodelio Aglibot, executive chef at Koi Restaurant in Los Angeles, shares his tuna expertise and a favorite recipe.
The Japanese rate tuna based on fat content and size, the higher-fat species being the most flavorful and tender. Look for troll-, pole-, or rod-and-reel- caught fish.
Big eye (ahi). Deep ruby red flesh and high fat content. Availability can be spotty.
Yellowfin (ahi). Much like big eye, but milder in flavor and slightly leaner and firmer. Widely available.
Albacore (tombo). Leanest and most affordable. Usually served cooked.
Buy from a shop you trust. The way tuna is handled greatly affects its quality.
Choose a store with quick product turnover. Japanese markets are often good bets.
Select the fish with your nose: it should smell ocean-fresh or be odorless.
Look for firm flesh with uniformly bright color.
Avoid fish that feels slimy or granular.
For sashimi (raw fish), ask for maguro ― a tender cut that runs along the spine near the head ― cut into saku blocks.
A NOTE ON SAFETY
Parasites are rare in tuna (especially sashimi-grade cuts), but to minimize the risk, follow the buying tips above. And to help slow the growth of bacteria, keep fish cold, then sear it on the outside, where bacteria generally occur.