Cooking Issues

The International Culinary Center's Tech 'N Stuff Blog

Cooking Issues header image 2

Tuna Spinal Jelly

October 2nd, 2009 · 15 Comments · Tuna Spine

posted by Dave Arnold

We have a new ingredient that we really like—raw tuna spinal jelly. We were introduced to it by our Ike Jime sensai, Chef Toshio Suzuki of Sushi Zen, when he was breaking down a whole Kindai Tuna (post on that soon). When fresh, the raw jelly tastes like fresh sea water.  Its incredibly refreshing.  We’ve heard it’s like sea urchin—god awful when not fresh. We ordered some tuna spines from True World Foods in New Jersey and they were also pretty cheap.  We got two big spines for 20 bucks.  Frankly, I think the spines were free and we were being charged for delivery. The spines were big and messy.

Tuna spinal jelly in the spine

Tuna spinal jelly in the spine

Here is how to to prepare them:

Scrape all the meat off the spine with a spoon. The meat is strong smelling and bloody.  Scrub the spine under running water with a stainless steel scrubby.  It should look like the picture below.


Tuna spine instructions

Tuna spine instructions

Cut off the stiff membrane between the vertebrae, then break the bony sections at the top and bottom with a heavy knife or bone saw. Finally, slice through the spine with a sharp knife.

The spine broken open. Be careful to keep the jelly clean.

The spine broken open. Be careful to keep the jelly clean.

Be careful not to contaminate the jelly with bloody meat. 

The texture of the jelly

The texture of the jelly

Reserve the jelly in quart containers.

What we really like is that the leftover bones make great presentation cups.  Boil the bones in a concentrated Oxyclean solution for about 40 minutes. Then scrape off the meat with a spoon.  There are cavities on the top and bottom of the spine (one is the neural cavity where we would normally do spinal cord destruction, the other is a blood vessel cavity). Make sure you get the gunk out of them with a skewer.  Then boil the bones in a fresh Oxyclean solution for about half an hour and let dry.  Oxyclean forms hydrogen peroxide when added to water.  It is the hydrogen peroxide which does the actual whitening.

How to clean the bones.

How to clean the bones.

Here they are when finished.

Clean tuna bones

Clean tuna bones

Here is a dish using the spinal jelly and the bones.  You can read about the dish here.

Finishing a dish with bones and spinal jelly

Finishing a dish with bones and spinal jelly


15 Comments so far ↓

  • Phil

    Apologies for an unappetizing thought, but I wonder if the spinal jelly has more or less mercury in it than the rest of the tuna meat? Might be tough to test that one out.

    • Dave A

      I dunno Phil. I have no way to test it.

    • maus

      “Apologies for an unappetizing thought, but I wonder if the spinal jelly has more or less mercury in it than the rest of the tuna meat? Might be tough to test that one out.”

      Is it really any concern if you’re not a pregnant lady? Seriously. There’s a lot of great overworry about the mercury content of fish going about.

  • rachey

    KINDAI??? damn. i’m assuming you don’t just call up pierless for that. hard to get, or easier than expected?

  • asbel reyes

    i have already told you how badass that spine bone bowl is. its pretty badass

  • Jeff

    Is there any nutritive value in the Jelly? Also, I wonder if there are any asian cultures that imbibe the jelly so ceremoneously.

  • Kenneth

    El Bulli served tuna spinal jelly on their menu back in 2003.

    • nastassiar8se

      We were grateful to learn about it from Chef Suzuki who has been eating it since he was a boy, in a culture that has been eating it for centuries. We looked up Ferran’s recipe for “Tuna Medulla.” It looks like a good recipe. Chris Constantino also has a recipe for Tuna spine at Incanto. I’m sure it is good as well, although we haven’t tried it.

  • Thomas Gren

    Hi guys,

    I absolutely love your blog and how different your approach to food is to everyone elses… can you recommend some other blogs out there similar to yours? (well perhaps “similar” is a bad word to use, but you know what I mean :-) ).


    • Dave A

      Thanks Thomas,
      I’d say a good place to start is the people on our blog roll. Alex and Aki at Ideas in Food always have something interesting, as does Chad (Chadzilla), Michael Laiskonis, Playing with Fire and Water, and Martin at Khymos. Also check out Doug Baldwin’s sous vide documents as well as any of the sous vide posts by Nathan M on eGullet. I am writing off the top of my head so I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot.

  • D

    hey, i was wondering why you didn’t just add peroxide to the boiling water? great blog, by the way

    • davearnold

      I guess I figured oxyclean would do the same thing. Maybe H2O2 would do a better job.