At the sushi bar, Toshi is making Hamachi sushi. Hamachi, Yellowtail is one of the most popular sushi items at Rock ‘N Hollywood Sushi. Hamachi is farm raised and air shipped from Japan, in a tightly vacuum packed a plastic bag, half fillet, and no head. One interesting thing about farm raised Hamachi and Tuna is that they discolor faster than the wild fish. Hamachi becomes darker and browner as it is exposed to oxygen. Discoloring is less appetizing. After opening the package, Toshi fillet it in half pieces, which is a quarter of a fish, separating the belly part form the back part. Belly part is reserved for a special customer and can be served as Hamachi Toro for a higher price. The collar is cut off and handed to the kitchen chef. They will serve it as Grilled Hamachi Kama Collar with Daikon Oroshi, Grated Radish with Ponzu Sauce.
“I like Hamachi,” I said to Toshi.
“Really? I did like it too, until I became a sushi chef, then, I cannot eat it anymore,” Toshi said.
“It’s too oily. You see that it’s farm raised. They feed the fish with too much food. They don’t give the fish enough exercise so that they have more “fat.” That’s why a lot of people like them. It’s fatter fish. Normally, farm raised fish is fatter than the wild ones. They raise in that way. Also, they give antibiotics to farm raised fish. We don’t know what they give to this Hamachi. I just don’t like the taste of farm raised Hamachi anymore. It tastes funny and weird. Just too oily, unpleasant.”
I couldn’t understand him when he told me that. Hamachi, at that point, still tasted good to me, until a few months later when I tasted it, I finally understood what Toshi was talking about. Suddenly, what tasted before did not taste good anymore. It tasted funny, wired just like Toshi said. It was overwhelmingly fatty. The oily flavor seemed unpleasant to my palette. Over the course of my sushi career, I’ve met so many Japanese sushi chefs who shared the same feeling about Hamachi as I did. At the same time, I’ve also met so many people who told me they LOVE Hamachi. When they tell me it’s their favorite fish, I hold back my opinion and say nothing and remind myself that everyone’s palate is different. I don’t tell them that I no longer eat Hamachi and the fact is that, there are many sushi chefs who feel the same as I do. Sushi chefs don’t eat as much farm raised Hamachi as you think.