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Jan 13, 2023

HOW TOIs the Japanese Fish Buri “Yellowtail” or “Amberjack”?

Stepping into a sushi restaurant and deciding which fish to order can be confusing. What's more, buri is known as both yellowtail and amberjack overseas. A deep dive on sushi and its etiquette will help you step up your game.

Jan 13, 2023

What’s in a name: Navigating fish nomenclature

Even when the English name for fish is translated from Japanese, it can still be incredibly confusing for visitors to Japanese sushi restaurants. That is because, even in English, the names are very different.

There are many ingredients used in sushi. When it comes to the fish varieties, the list could be endless. For this article, we’ll focus on the most popular. Starting with tuna. The Japanese name for tuna, in general, is maguro.

However, as you’ll probably be aware, various cuts of tuna are used in sushi. Akami is the upper back, chuturo is the center belly and otoro is the top belly cut.

Salmon is called saamon in Japanese, an easy one to remember, and its salted roe is called ikura. Other popular fish include ebi (shrimp), uni (sea urchin) and aji (horse mackerel). And then there are the yellowtails and amberjack; these fish deserve a section of their own. 

Is buri yellowtail or amberjack? What’s the difference? 

Sadly, there’s no easy answer to whether buri is indeed yellowtail or amberjack, but we’ll do our best to explain. In fact, buri is both yellowtail and amberjack.

The best way to understand this is to call yellowtail by its other name, Japanese amberjack. Now many people will probably consider yellowtail a species of tuna, but it’s not. Yellowtail, or Japanese amberjack, is part of the jackfish family.

Buri describes the older, mature yellowtail, while hamachi is a younger fish. Unfortunately, the complications don’t stop here. Another fish, hiramasa, is the yellowtail amberjack, a completely different species from the yellowtail found in the Southern Ocean. Finally, Kanpachi is another member of the jackfish family, the greater amberjack. 

Of course, the best way to tell the difference between the various types of yellowtail or amberjack is by eating them. However, if you want to make sure you’re choosing the correct fish by sight, too, there are a few things to look out for.

As a young fish, hamachi has a soft texture and light color. Flavour-wise, sushi experts say to look out for a citrus finish. A more mature yellowfin, buri is slightly darker in appearance and has a relatively strong, fatty taste. Kanpachi is much lighter in color and has a crisper taste to either buri or hamachi. Finally, Hiramasa is usually light pink in color and firm with a sweet taste.

Finding the freshest fish, and the right way to eat sushi 

There are a few crucial things to look out for when choosing the freshest sushi. First up is smell. Sushi shouldn’t smell fishy, and fresh fish doesn’t have a particularly strong odor. Instead, you should be able to pick out the other ingredients served with it. The look of the fish is also a strong indicator of its freshness.

Fresh fish is bright and almost translucent in appearance. If you see any milk residue or dullness to the flesh, you’re probably not being served the freshest sushi. Finally, fresh fish should be firm and bouncy to the touch, not mushy.

Once you’ve selected the freshest bite, you need to make sure you enjoy it properly. Unsurprisingly, there is a strict sushi etiquette in Japan. Here are the basics. Firstly, clean your hands. If there is a wet towel available, use that. 

Next, only pour a small amount of soy sauce into your bowl. Too much, and you can risk offending your host by suggesting the fish needs lots of seasoning. Use chopsticks for sashimi and your hands for nigiri. Wasabi should generally be applied directly to sushi or sashimi – not mixed in your soy sauce. And most importantly, don’t dunk your rice into the soy sauce, but rather gently dip your sushi or sashimi. The taste of the ingredients is most important – soy sauce is merely a sublime accompaniment.