Cooking Issues

The International Culinary Center's Tech 'N Stuff Blog

Cooking Issues header image 2

Kindai Tuna Breakdown: How to Cut Up and Serve a Whole (Sustainable) Bluefin

October 20th, 2009 · 5 Comments · Kindai Tuna

posted by Dave Arnold with Nastassia Lopez

About a month ago, Chef Toshio Suzuki from Sushi Zen in New York (our ike-jime sensei) and Chef Noriyuki Kobayashi of Megu Midtown came to The FCI to demonstrate cutting a whole Kindai bluefin tuna. The event was sponsored by the Gohan Society and Sona Seafood (the guys who import Kindai).

Bluefin is delicious, but naughty.

As many of our readers know, you aren’t supposed to eat bluefin. The wild stocks have been horribly depleted. So-called ‘farmed’ bluefin are really just wild fish that are caught and fattened up for a couple of months.

But Kindai bluefin tuna are different. Kindai tuna are produced through closed cycle farming. They are raised from eggs hatched in a lab at Kinki University in Japan, and the eggs are obtained from fish grown from eggs hatched in Kinki’s lab. This cycle has been going on for several generations, although the folks at Kinki have been working on the problem for decades. Kinki does take some bluefin from the wild to increase the genetic diversity of their breeding stock, but they claim to release enough hatched juveniles to make up for it (a company representative told me this; I haven’t seen it confirmed in a written paper).

There are some folks who don’t like the idea of Kindai tuna. Some say bluefin shouldn’t be farmed at all because the operations are too resource-intensive—it takes a lot of fish to grow a pound of tuna. But since when is the food only about efficiency? (I once spent 2 days producing a single quart of super-perfect wine reduction.) If the mackerel, sand eel, and squid that are fed to Kindai tuna are in danger of depletion it would be a different story—I don’t think they are. Some also argue that inefficient feeding regimens of large-scale aquaculture pollute the ocean because wasted food sinks to the bottom of the ocean and rots. The Kinki people counter that they feed their tuna only as much as they want to eat, by hand. Lastly, some critics argue that customers who have just stopped eating bluefin are confused when they are given an option they are allowed to eat, spoiling all the effective anti-bluefin education. This argument makes the least sense to me; the only real concern is that wild bluefin could be falsely marketed as Kindai.
If you are going to eat bluefin, Kindai seems like a good bet. Here is how to cut one up and use the parts. Enjoy.

NOTE 1 Some of the pictures are quite small.  If you click on them a new window will open with an 800 pixel wide version without captions. 
NOTE 2 I am no tuna expert.  Let me know if there are errors or omissions.

Chef Suzuki with a whole Kindai Bluefin Tuna. It weighs about 60 kilos and costs about 72 dollars a kilo.

Chef Suzuki with a whole Kindai Bluefin Tuna. It weighs about 60 kilos and costs about 72 dollars a kilo.

Step 1

1) Cut off the tail. 2) Make a cut in gill flap and, 3)feel for the location where the spine meets the head: you’ll be aiming you cut towards this spot.

1) Cut off the tail. 2) Make a cut in gill flap and, 3) Feel for the location where the spine meets the head. You’ll be aiming you cut towards this spot.

Step 2

1) and 2) Grab pectoral fin and cut in a vee to center of the head. 3) and 4) Flip the fish over and repeat.

1) and 2) Grab pectoral fin and cut in a vee to center of the head. 3) and 4) Flip the fish over and repeat.

Step 3

1) Sever the spine and the hard part beneath the jaw. 2) Remove head (Some fish cutters will remove the head at the gill flap and leave the collar area attached till later). 3) Cut off pelvic fin. 4) Open the belly and locate the spine at the head and tail. You will be aiming just below the spine on the next cut.

1) Sever the spine and the hard part beneath the jaw. 2) Remove head (Some fish cutters will remove the head at the gill flap and leave the collar area attached till later). 3) Cut off pelvic fin. 4) Open the belly and locate the spine at the head and tail. You will be aiming just below the spine on the next cut.

Step 4

1) and 2) Make a cut along the side of the fish just below the spine all the way to the center. 3) and 4) Cut from back to front to slice off the lower quarter, called the belly cho (a cho is a quarter of the fish), then remove.

1) and 2) Make a cut along the side of the fish just below the spine all the way to the center. 3) and 4) Cut from back to front to slice off the lower quarter, called the belly cho (a cho is a quarter of the fish), then remove.

Step 5

1) 2) and 3) Cut at an angle over the backbone then slice the top quarter (the back cho) off and remove. Note the blood spots in the meat. This is a result of the Kindai electro-slaughter technique. They should have used clove oil!

1) 2) and 3) Cut at an angle over the backbone then slice the top quarter (the back cho) off and remove. Note the blood spots in the meat. This is a result of the Kindai electro-slaughter technique. They should have used clove oil!

Step 6

1) 2) 3) and 4) Trim the fin areas on the top and bottom. At this point some fish cutters would scrape all the meat off the spine with a spoon, but Chef Suzuki plans in using it in a grilled spine dish.

1) 2) 3) and 4) Trim the fin areas on the top and bottom. At this point some fish cutters would scrape all the meat off the spine with a spoon, but Chef Suzuki plans on using it in a grilled spine dish.

Step 7

1) and 2) cut the spine free from the second half of the fish. 3) Pat dry and wipe off.

1) and 2) Cut the spine free from the second half of the fish. 3) Pat dry and wipe off.

Step 8

1) and 2) Separate the belly quarter from the top quarter.

1) and 2) Separate the belly quarter from the top quarter.

Step 9

The belly quarter: 1) Cut off the major bloody area in one piece. 2) Finish trimming out the bloodline from the belly quarter. 3) Turn the quarter around. Note the shape of the trimmed area.

The belly quarter: 1) Cut off the major bloody area in one piece. 2) Finish trimming out the bloodline from the belly quarter. 3) Turn the quarter around. Note the shape of the trimmed area.

Step 10

1) Trim a little bit of the white fatty membrane on the inside of the belly (Suzuki has just done this). 2) Trim the fin area. Suzuki likes this cut of meat. He says it’s like beef. 3) and 4) Trim the rest of the membrane areas on the inside of the belly.  Suzuki likes these pieces, too –more beef.

1) Trim a little bit of the white fatty membrane on the inside of the belly (Suzuki has just done this). 2) Trim the fin area. Suzuki likes this cut of meat. He says it’s like beef. 3) and 4) Trim the rest of the membrane areas on the inside of the belly. Suzuki likes these pieces, too-–more beef.

Step 11

1) The trimmings from the belly and fins. 2) 3) and 4) Cut off the bottom portion of the belly. This will be the fattiest part: the otoro.

1) The trimmings from the belly and fins. 2) 3) and 4) Cut off the bottom portion of the belly. This will be the fattiest part: the otoro.

Step 12

1) and 2) Cut the upper portion of the belly quarter free from the skin. This will be chutoro and akami. 3) Cut the meat in half. 4) Scrape the meat from the skin. This meat is fatty –good for rolls.

1) and 2) Cut the upper portion of the belly quarter free from the skin. This will be chutoro and akami. 3) Cut the meat in half. 4) Scrape the meat from the skin. This meat is fatty-–good for rolls.

Step 13

Cutting Saku blocks. Saku are rectangular pieces of fish from which individual portions are cut. 1) Take the upper portion of the belly quarter that was closest to the head (remember he cut it in half) and put it skin side down. 2) and 3) Cut off the piece shown. It was on the interior of the fish and has the least fat. Reserve it for step 16.

Cutting Saku blocks. Saku are rectangular pieces of fish from which individual portions are cut. 1) Take the upper portion of the belly quarter that was closest to the head (remember he cut it in half) and put it skin side down. 2) and 3) Cut off the piece shown. It was on the interior of the fish and has the least fat. Reserve it for step 16.

Step 14

1) Cut a saku off the portion of the fish that was farthest from the belly. 2) Flip it over and trim (the trim goes into the scrapings pile). 3) Look at the piece. On the bottom it is fatty and on the top it is lean. Suzuki puts it in the medium fat, or chutoro, pile. (Note that between 1) and 2) the main piece of fish has been rotated 180 degrees)

1) Cut a saku off the portion of the fish that was farthest from the belly. 2) Flip it over and trim (the trim goes into the scrapings pile). 3) Look at the piece. On the bottom it is fatty and on the top it is lean. Suzuki puts it in the medium fat, or chutoro, pile. (Note that between 1) and 2) the main piece of fish has been rotated 180 degrees)

Step 15

1) 2) and 3) Continue to cut saku.

1) 2) and 3) Continue to cut saku.

Step 16

1) Take the piece that you reserved in step 13, put the blood-line portion down on your board and trim. 2) and 3) Flip it back over and cut off a saku in where the bloodline was trimmed in step 9. 4) Rotate the meat 180 degrees and cut off another saku.  These piece of meat are lean, aka akami.

1) Take the piece that you reserved in step 13, put the blood-line portion down on your board and trim. 2) and 3) Flip it back over and cut off a saku in where the bloodline was trimmed in step 9. 4) Rotate the meat 180 degrees and cut off another saku. These piece of meat are lean, aka akami.

Step 17

1) and 2) Take the tail-half of the upper part of the belly-cho (from step 12.3), put is skin-side down on your board and slice off the inner piece. 3) and 4) Cut this small piece into two lean akami saku.

1) and 2) Take the tail-half of the upper part of the belly-cho (from step 12.3), put is skin-side down on your board and slice off the inner piece. 3) and 4) Cut this small piece into two lean akami saku.

Step 18

1) 2) and 3) The other portion is cut into 4 saku and put in the medium fatty chutoro pile. It looks very pale because Chef Suzuki flipped it over. You are looking at the skin-side. The skin-side is fattier because the fish stores fat on its outside for insulation.

1) 2) and 3) The other portion is cut into 4 saku and put in the medium fatty chutoro pile. It looks very pale because Chef Suzuki flipped it over. You are looking at the skin-side. The skin-side is fattier because the fish stores fat on its outside for insulation.

Step 19

The super-fatty otoro! Big bad belly badness. 1) Make a small incision in the corner of the belly and 2) remove the small bone. 3) and 4) Cut 2 saku off the short part of the belly (the part closest to the bottom).

The super-fatty otoro! Big bad belly badness. 1) Make a small incision in the corner of the belly and 2) remove the small bone. 3) and 4) Cut 2 saku off the short part of the belly (the part closest to the bottom).

Step 20

1) Cut the rest of the belly in half. 2) 3) and 4) cut the halves into two saku each.

1) Cut the rest of the belly in half. 2) 3) and 4) cut the halves into two saku each.

Step 21

The pieces of the belly cho: 1) The otoro; 2) the akami; 3) the chutoro.

The pieces of the belly cho: 1) The otoro; 2) the akami; 3) the chutoro.

Chefs Suzuki and Kobayashi did not demonstrate cutting the upper quarter (back cho)  into saku.

Step 22

Chef Kobayashi comes in to break some heads! Each head yields two eyes, two cheeks, two collar pieces, and one piece of meat running from in-between the eyes up the forehead. 1) The tuna head. 2) and 3) cut around the eyeball and gouge it out with your hand.

Chef Kobayashi comes in to break some heads! Each head yields two eyes, two cheeks, two collar pieces, and one piece of meat running from in between the eyes up the forehead. 1) The tuna head. 2) and 3) cut around the eyeball and gouge it out with your hand.

Step 23

1) Trim the skin from the cheek area. Use your finger to free the cheek from the skin and the bone and 2) rip it out with your hand. 3) Use your fingers to free the meat on the top of the head and carefully remove it with your hand. 4) 1 cheek (the round piece) and one head piece.  Chef Kobayashi says they can be used either for tartar or for grilling like a steak.  They are very tender.

1) Trim the skin from the cheek area. Use your finger to free the cheek from the skin and the bone and 2) Rip it out with your hand. 3) Use your fingers to free the meat on the top of the head and carefully remove it with your hand. 4) 1 cheek (the round piece) and one head piece. Chef Kobayashi says they can be used either for tartare or for grilling like a steak. They are very tender.

Step 24

1) Chef Kobayashi shows where the head meat came from. 2) Cut around the other eyeball. 3) Free it with your hand. 4) Rip out the eye. The eyes can be eaten raw or wrapped in foil and cooked.

1) Chef Kobayashi shows where the head meat came from. 2) Cut around the other eyeball. 3) Free it with your hand. 4) Rip out the eye. The eyes can be eaten raw or wrapped in foil and cooked.

Step 25

1) Trim the skin over the cheek. 2) Use your finger to free the cheek meat. 3) The head meat is on the cutting board.

1) Trim the skin over the cheek. 2) Use your finger to free the cheek meat. 3) The head meat is on the cutting board.

Step 26

1) 2) and3) Cut off the collar of meat behind the gill flaps. This cut is called kama and is good roasted or grilled. 4) Platter with the collar (kama), the two eyes, and the belly trim.

1) 2) and3) Cut off the collar of meat behind the gill flaps. This cut is called kama and is good roasted or grilled. 4) Platter with the collar (kama), the two eyes, and the belly trim.

Step 27

Preparing the spine. 1) 2) and 3) Chef Suzuki cuts the spine into segments between the vertebrae.  Notice the jelly in-between them.  This is the tuna marrow. This can be eaten raw if the fish is fresh or cooked. Chef Suzuki says it’s good for the complexion.

Preparing the spine. 1) 2) and 3) Chef Suzuki cuts the spine into segments between the vertebrae. Notice the jelly in-between them. This is the tuna marrow. This can be eaten raw if the fish is fresh or cooked. Chef Suzuki says it’s good for the complexion.

Step 28

1) Lean Akami; 2) medium fatty chutoro; 3) very fatty otoro; 4) meat scrapings from the skin and fins; 5) meat scrapings from around the spine. I ate them. They were great.

1) Lean Akami; 2) medium fatty chutoro; 3) very fatty otoro; 4) meat scrapings from the skin and fins; 5) meat scrapings from around the spine. I ate them. They were great.

Step 29

1) The cooked belly trimmings; 2) The cooked eyeballs and a piece of cooked tail; 3) the cooked cheeks and head-meat; 4) the cooked collars, or kama.

1) The cooked belly trimmings; 2) The cooked eyeballs and a piece of cooked tail; 3) the cooked cheeks and head-meat; 4) the cooked collars, or kama.

Step 30

1) The roasted spine. 2) If the bloody portion of the fish that was trimmed in step 9.1 is dried for a couple of days it becomes a jerky like you see here.  It is then grilled over a hot flame and served with sake or beer.

1) The roasted spine. 2) If the bloody portion of the fish that was trimmed in step 9.1 is dried for a couple of days it becomes a jerky like you see here. It is then grilled over a hot flame and served with sake or beer.

Step 31

Chef Kobayashi on the left and Chef Suzuki on the right at the end of one sweet demo.

Chef Kobayashi on the left and Chef Suzuki on the right at the end of one sweet demo.

Tags:

5 Comments so far ↓