White Tuna: Delicious, But At What Cost?

From left to right: white tuna ceviche, white tuna sushi, seared maple-sesame white tuna, and strawberry-balsamic white tuna sushiFrom left to right: white tuna ceviche, white tuna sushi, seared maple-sesame white tuna, and strawberry-balsamic white tuna sushiOur favorite local Asian grocery store, Am-Ko, carries a small selection of flash-frozen sashimi-grade fish. Every so often, we pick up a pound or so of tuna. It is far less expensive than going out for sushi, it defrosts overnight in the fridge, and it is delicious. We usually devour it raw in a ravenous frenzy, but on occasion we'll make up some sushi rice and such and pretend to be civilized.

Last week, we were in Am-Ko and, checking out their sashimi collection, we saw that they had white tuna. OMG.

For those of you who haven't had white tuna, get thee to a sushi bar immediately. The stuff is like heaven in raw fish form.

The sushi places around us don't carry it consistently, which is fair enough - we live in the middle of Illinois. We'd definitely never seen it at Am-Ko before. I began hatching plans.

The plans came to fruition near-flawlessly. I made white tuna four ways.

  • White tuna ceviche - I took some tuna and marinated it for about an hour in lime juice and and a bit of triple-sec and vinegar (+kosher salt). Ceviche usually marinates longer than that, but this was fish that I'd happily eat raw. It turned out amazingly well - the lime juice had just started to cook the outside, which led to a nice textural and flavor differential across the piece of fish.
  • White tuna sushi - the classic, made with wasabi and vinegared rice. Unfortunately, the rice we had in the house didn't want to stick to itself (it mostly wanted to stick to my fingers). Really tasty though.
  • Seared maple-sesame white tuna - I mixed up a bit of maple syrup and sesame oil, dipped both sides of the tuna in it, and seared each side for about 20 seconds in a cast iron pan. Still close to raw on the inside, this was great: sweet and smoky and rich. I should have made more of it.
  • Strawberry-balsamic white tuna sushi - This was my experiment. Playing on the idea of vinegared rice, I blended a strawberry with some aged balsamic and mixed that in with the rice. It worked. White tuna is incredibly rich, and when complemented with the sweetness of the strawberry and the bite of the balsamic, everything just fell into place. When I added a bit of soy sauce, it was even better.

Can we have too much of a good thing?

It turns out, yes. We can.

Food blogs don't often talk about the less than salutory effects that food can have upon your body, but I'm going to do so here. If you're squeamish, stop reading now.


Apparently, not everything that is sold as white tuna is, in fact, white tuna... or even tuna. It turns out that what we bought was escolar. Escolar is delicious. It is incredibly tasty and rich. Much of this is due to the high oil content (about 20%) of its meat. The problem is that people don't really metabolize this oil... and it largely passes right through them in a... not-so-controlled... manner. This doesn't really happen when you eat a small quantity of the fish (like a piece of sushi or two), but if you gorge yourself on it... Well, let's just say you'll be remarkably well lubricated the next day.

So... local people... I don't want to warn you off of Am-Ko's frozen sashimi. It is good stuff. I'd just suggest that maybe you get the red tuna instead of the white.


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