One of the most delightful dishes that one orders in a Japanese restaurant is virtually unknown to many. Once discarded in the past – as only few appreciated that unattractive part of the fish, it has risen as one of the food discoveries in the continual education or reeducation of the Western palate. It is so savory – rich in Omega 3 oils – another new discovery of the 20th century, many claiming positive health benefits if taken consistently. Grilled over hot coals with just a few sprinklings of salt and pepper brings about the savory goodness of this less known flesh.
To what is he referring to, one might ask….. Well its none other than the hamachi kama – the once unappreciated part of the tuna. Everyone knows that there are only two pieces of the collar which makes it much desired but most importantly because of its sweet delicate flavor….Splash some lemon juice and you’re good to go…a nice bowl of steamed rice with go very well with this dish. Take note – steamed rice only – since fried rice will tend to reduce the impact of the taste of the fish.
Some Japanese menus will not show it but if you ask your sushi chef or server they will have one on reserve in the freezer – for that special customer that frequents the place. But you will never know until you ask – most often they will allow you to have it since you asked. Most will cost around $7 – $9 a piece but should one spot one on the menu and its $12 – dont order it. Why you might ask? While its a great tasting menu item – one shouldnt pay more than $10 for it. The meat while succulent is not plentiful – how much meat can one get from the collar? I think $9 is a good price to pay – that’s it!
So if I have piqued your curiosity and your favorite sushi place does not offer it or has run out by the time you order one – since they get fish delivery once or twice a week and their share of the collar has long been consumed – what does a hungry sushi hunter do?
There are a few places to go in the San Francisco Bay Area – one of which is my favorite and located in downtown San Mateo. Why a favorite of mine – you might ask? Because of its reputation for freshness and for decades has served Japanese food lovers like yours truly.
Suruki Supermarket at 71 E 4th Ave San Mateo. This is where I can get ingredients for those impromptu parties, you know who you are , you know what I mean. There’s alway fresh fresh fish for sushi – albacore, maguro, hamachi, mackarel, snapper and even octopus. Suruki also has angkimo – one of my favorite Japanese delicacy – monkfish liver and uni – sea urchin roe.
Hamachi kama is available fresh – usually two small parts in a package – costs around $6.
Call ahead and they can reserve them for you and they’re open 7 days a week.
Japantown groceries stores located on Post Street will also carry the hamachi kama..call ahead.
How to cook it?
As I stated – salt and pepper grilled over coals – if you cant barbecue – use the oven but be prepared to fan your smoke alarm as it could generate smoke enough to trigger it.
Just long enough to form a light brown crust around the edges but dont over cook it. As with any kind of fish – it cooks quickly. Take off the heat and splash some fresh lemon juice and you’re in hamachi heaven – hamachi kama heaven that is.