Ingredients, dishes and drinks from Japan by Ad Blankestijn

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Yellowtail, Japanese amberjack. Seriola Quinqueradiata. ぶり、鰤。

Large fish about 15 kilos in weight and reaching a length of 1.3 meters. It is a migrating, fast swimming, predatory fish, found in the north-western Pacific, and belonging to the family of the Carangidae. It is an important fish in the Japanese cuisine.

Buri is extensively cultivated artificially (about 120,000 tonnes per year) in cages in the sea. In May, small wild fry (mojako), which can be found under floating seaweed, are caught for that purpose.

In Japan, buri is called "shusse-uo," literally a "fish that makes career," which is indicated by the different names by which it is called at different stages of growth. In other words, buri is not always called buri! On top of that, there are many regional differences in naming - I give here those from the Kanto and Kansai which are most common, but note that for example in the Hokuriku area again totally different names are used! The system is basically as follows:

Kanto (Eastern Japan): wakashi (less than 35 cm) → inada (35-60 cm) → warasa (60-80 cm) → buri (more than 80 cm)

Kansai (Western Japan): tsubasu (less than 40 cm) → hamachi (40-60 cm) → mejiro (60-80 cm) → buri (more than 80 cm)

To make things more complicated, "hamachi" is used in the Kanto area to designate cultivated buri.

The largest number of wild buri is caught in Shimane Prefecturre, followed by Tottori, Nagasaki, and Ishikawa. Cultivated buri mainly come from Kagoshima Prefecture, Ehime, Nagasaki and Oita.

Buri no teriyaki
[Buri no teriyaki}

Among the wild buri, the most delicious is the so-called "kan-buri," or "buri from the cold season." This fish has the highest fat content, as it puts on fat in winter before producing eggs in spring. This type of buri, caught in the wild, is a typical delicacy of the Hokuriku area such as Toyama. As also the Sinograph with which buri is written (alluding to "shiwase," the poetical name for the month of December) indicates, buri indeed is a typical winterfish, best from December to February. In Western Japan, the fact that its is a "career fish" gives it an auspicious quality, and therefore it is often used in the meal eaten at the New Year (osechi).

The small fish called inada (hamachi in the Kansai) is in contrast to the full-grown buri a summer fish. The use in the Japanese cuisine is also different:

inada: sashimi, zuke (pickled in soy sauce), marinated.

buri: teriyaki (grilled with a glaze of soy sauce and mirin - see the photo above), shioyaki (grilled with salt), buri-daikon (a form of aradaki, the head and body with the bones still on it simmered in stock flavored with soy sauce, sake and mirin).