Aji Sushi
Horse mackerel

aji sushi

What is Aji アジ【鰺】?

Aji (アジ) is the Japanese generic term for a group of fishes from the subfamily of jacks and pompanos. In Japan, especially in the culinary context, the term usually refers to the Japanese horse mackerel (maaji). Although other important fish also bear the name Aji in their names such as white trevally (shimaaji), the term aji alone is mostly used for fish of the genera maaji (lat. Trachurus spp.) and muroaji (lat. Decapterus spp.)

Aji is one of the most important representatives of the sushi ingredients, which are prepared with the shiny silver skin (hikarimono).

Aji for Sushi and Sashimi

In Japan, aji is an important ingredient in many dishes. Besides being used for sushi and sashimi, horse mackerel are often grilled, simmered, or fried. Especially in Japan aji enjoys a very high culinary value, as may be deduced from the fact that the Japanese word aji also means “taste”.

While the currently popular seki aji ... is coming to the tsukiji market, I want to make nigiri with aji (maaji), which is much smaller and tastes lighter. Jiro Ono in Sushi Chef: Sukiyabashi Jiro (Satomi, 2016)
A piece of bastard mackerel or horse mackerel nigiri sushi that has been glazed with soy sauce and is sitting on the counter of a sushi restraurant.
Aji Sushi (アジ寿司)

The meat of aji is pink and firm. It is also juicy, rich in fat and has a strong characteristic taste. Like other silver-skinned fish, ajj is particularly tasty after salting and marinating in vinegar (sujime-method, 酢じめ). Marinating not only preserves and absorbs strong flavours, but also serves to enrich aromas and reduce the "fishy" taste. Contrary to popular belief, soaking in a salt or vinegar solution does not sufficiently kill any parasites that may be present.

In high scale sushi restaurants, such as the famous Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo by Jiro Ono, raw aji is also preferred. According to Jiro's statements, raw aji is not only more difficult to process, but also makes higher demands on quality and freshness than if aji was marinated in sujime. It should be noted that the meat of aji can spoil very quickly due to its high enzyme content (Satomi, 2016).

Usually aji nigiri is garnished with freshly grated ginger (oroshi shōga, おろし生姜) and finely chopped spring onion (negi, ネギ), together this creates an amazingly successful combination of flavours and is more suitable than Japanese horseradish (wasabi, ワサビ). This combination blends wonderfully with vinegared sushi rice. Soy sauce should only be used sparingly for glazing. The meat of aji is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B2, B3, B6 and B12.

Best Season

The best season is generally late spring to early autumn, not immediately before and after the spawning season of the respective population. Due to the global distribution in the northern and southern hemisphere and the logistic availability, aji is also available all year round in good quality.

Characteristics & Ecology

Many species of aji are native to tropical and temperate waters of the world. The most important aji species in Japan is the Japanese horse mackerel (ma-aji), its distribution stretches from Hokkaido to the South China Sea. The economically most important type is the Chilean jack mackerel and is used also in Japan, beside related types from the North Atlantic and South Pacific, as substitute (daiyogyo, 代用魚) for the preparation of aji sushi. Muroaji is mainly found in tropical and subtropical waters and is considered an important seafood in Japan.

Japanese nameCommon name
Akaaji
アカアジ
Red Japanese scad
Decapterus akaadsi
Chirimaaji
チリマアジ
Chilean jack mackerel
チリマアジ
Gingameaji
ギンガメアジ
six-banded trevally, big-eye trevally
Caranx sexfasciatus
Maruaji
マルアジ
Japanese scad
Decapterus maruadsi
Muroaji
ムロアジ
Amberstripe scad
Decapterus muroadsi
Nishimaaji
ニシマアジ
Atlantic Horse-mackerel, European horse mackerel, common scad
Trachurus trachurus
Oniaji
オニアジ
Torpedo scad
Megalaspis cordyla
Onihiraaji
オニヒラアジ
Brassy trevally
Caranx papuensis
Shimaaji
シマアジ
White trevally
Pseudocaranx dentex
Taiseiyoumaaji
タイセイヨウマアジ
Rough scad
Trachurus lathami
Maaji
マアジ
Japanese jack mackerel
Trachurus japonicus

Economy

Diagram showing the distribution and progression of catches of selected species (aji).
Since the mid-1970s, Japanese jack mackerels have accounted for a relatively small proportion of the total catch.
  1. Seki-aji are Japanese horse mackerels caught in fishing grounds in the Strait of Bungo (Bungo-suidō, 豊後水道). Only specimens fished off the coasts of Saganoseki City qualify to be called seki-aji. The meat is characterized by its balanced amount of fat and firm flesh.

Video

© きまぐれクックKimagure Cook. 【無修正】すこし変わった アジのさばき方 【裏技】. 2017-06-26, youTube.com

Gallery

 

For copyright and author information, see the "Image Credits" section.

Native Range

Source: Kaschner, K., K. Kesner-Reyes, C. Garilao, J. Segschneider, J. Rius-Barile, T. Rees, and R. Froese. 2019. AquaMaps, Scarponi, P., G. Coro, and P. Pagano. A collection of Aquamaps native layers in NetCDF format.

Warnings

As a general rule, do not eat ingredients that are not explicitly labeled for raw consumption.

The naturally have high levels of enzymes causes the meat to let it rot quickly. It is therefore essential to maintain an appropriate cold chain until prompt processing. Histamine is not destroyed by normal cooking temperatures, so even properly cooked fish can still result in poisoning.

References & further reading

  • [Fujiwara, 2013]: Masataka Fujiwara (藤原昌高). Sushi zukan (すし図鑑). Mainabi Shuppan (マイナビ出版). 2013
  • [Satomi, 2016]: Shinzo Satomi. Sukiyabashi Jiro. Vertical Inc., New York. 2016
  • [Tomiyama, 1972]: Tetuo Tomiyama, Zen Nihon Suisan Shashin Shiryō Kyōkai,. Fisheries in Japan: Jacks and pompanos, Vol. 8: Fisheries in Japan, Zen Nihon Suisan Shashin. Japan Marine Products Photo Materials Association, Tokyo. 1972

Image credits

Information

Illustration

Drawn illustration for  aji

Common names

horse mackerel

Japanese names

  • aji (アジ)

鯵, 鰺

Scientific name

Familia Caranginae

Family

Trevallies

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