One of Japan’s most popular and often-enjoyed fish is yellowtail (buri). Firm and sweet, it’s delicious raw as sushi or sashimi, cooked in the oven or grill. It’s often treated with a teriyaki glaze, while salt and sudachi citrus also bring buri to the next level.
“Wait a second! I’ve eaten yellowtail at sushi restaurants, and the chefs called it hamachi,” you might be saying, and you’re not wrong. In Japan, though, certain fish are classified as shusse-uo, literally “promotion fish,” and get different names depending on their stage of growth. In the case of yellowtail, younger fish are called hamachi, but once they mature and grow to a length of more than 80 centimeters (31.5 inches), they’re “promoted” and given a new name: buri.
Now that we’ve got the topic of buri vs. hamachi sorted out, let’s move on to another important distinction, farmed buri vs. wild buri.
Wild buri and the flavor of nature
The texture and taste of buri that’s caught in the wild is influenced by the natural environment, naturally. For starters, spending its whole life swimming in ocean currents makes wild buri, on average, more muscularly toned than farm-raised buri, resulting in firmer meat. Wild buri also tends to be leaner than the farmed kind, which is a plus for people who prefer a lighter flavor…but that’s actually not what most Japanese buri fans are looking for most of the time.
Among Japanese fish foodies, cuts of fish with a higher fat content are usually the most popular for their rich, succulent nature. For this reason, buri connoisseurs will tell you that the best time to eat wild-caught buri is in the winter, when it’s called kan buri (lit. “cold buri”). Buri habitually bulk up during the coldest part of the year, so the extra-fatty meat of kan buri is considered the best among wild buri.
So is wild buri always better than farmed buri
Farmed buri is also incredibly popular in Japan. Wild buri may have lots of tasty fat in winter, but it’s on the skinny side in other seasons. However that’s not an issue with farmed buri. Since their feed levels can be adjusted to keep them consistently and deliciously plump all year round, farmed buri are considerably sweeter and more flavorful than their wild-caught cousins outside the winter months. And because that sweetness is what makes buri special, many people prefer the flavor of farmed buri.
Farmed buri also tends to have a shinier, more appetizing appearance, thanks to high fat content. The controlled environment where they’re raised allows farmed buri to be cleaned and packaged more quickly and efficiently. This helps preserve their flavor in the distribution chain from farm to table. On the other hand, its texture is a little softer, and the extra fat translates to more calories, too.
Ultimately, there’s no right answer to whether wild or farmed buri is better. On the plus side, this also means you can’t go wrong either way with this delectable Japanese fish.