Saturday 30 September 2017

The Biggest Fish Market in the World: Tsukiji

Friday saw a night out in in Tsukiji, the area containing the largest wholesale fish market in the world. Currently located in central Tokyo, just a stone's throw from Ginza (a short walk from the famous kabuki theatre), the market is due to be relocated to a new site in autumn 2018. The market itself is a popular tourist attraction, though if you want to see the early morning auction - starting at 5:25am - you'll have to start queueing for one of the limited places early, maybe just after 3:00am when the market opens! After the auction, the market springs to life with some of the freshest fish you'll ever see on sale, particularly different cuts of tuna which increase in price as the fat content increases: the most common cuts are red fin meat known as akami (赤身); slightly more fatty chūtoro (中とろ) from the middle belly; and super fatty ōtoro (大トロ) from the lower belly. You might even be lucky enough to see a tuna being carved up (top right). The market also boasts some of the most delicious sushi and sashimi restaurants (though be warned, they are not cheap). How about a kaisendon (海鮮丼) - assorted seafood on rice - for breakfast? See here for a great video showing the auction followed by a little shopping afterwards.
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I was lucky enough to know a couple who run a sashimi (raw fish) bar just down the street from the market called Kashigashira. The husband had worked as a middle man buying and selling fish in the past, a job which involved sleeping in the afternoon and getting up late to catch the last train to the market to work from the early hours. With good contacts, the decision to open a restaurant - bringing slightly more "normal" working hours - was a logical next step. Needless to say the food was amazing (note the menu changes daily depending on the day's catch). For example, the plate of sashimi pictured left contained beautifully marbled Oma (大間) in the centre, a tuna named after a small town in Aomori, northern Japan, which is a real delicacy (my Japanese wife said she had never eaten it!). It also included adult amberjack which is called buri in Japanese (in contrast, young amberjack is called hamachi, reflecting the fact that, in Japan, fish are called different names as they grow older (known as shusse-uo =出世魚). Another dish which appeared as part of a long three-hour course grilled salted maguro. The picture below shows the jaw (ago) of the giant tuna. Gochisō-sama deshita!