What is Hamachi (Japanese Amberjack)?
Hamachi is the Japanese term for a medium-sized japanese amberjack or yellowtail (buri). It is a species of jack fishes in the family of Jacks and pompanos. A hamachi is between 40 to 60 cm in size and thus corresponds to about half to three-quarters of a full-grown buri. Hamachi is a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine and a popular ingredient for sushi and sashimi.
Hamachi as Ingredient for Sushi or Sashimi
The taste is full-bodied, minerally and slightly buttery with a distinct sweetness. The light-colored and whitish to pinkish red meat has a pleasant soft texture, is medium firm and thanks to the fat content remarkably tender. The meat of hamachi is equally suitable for nigiri sushi or sashimi.
Hamachi from aquaculture differs significantly from wild caught specimens. The taste of a farmed specimen is lighter and less intense. In addition, the taste depends on the composition of the feed or diet. In farmed fish, especially those with high fat content like hamachi, it is typical that the composition of the feed influences the taste. Depending on the farm, different feeds are used. These range from inexpensive pelleted feeds based on plants (soybean meal or rapeseed oil) to additives that imitate the natural taste (e.g. sardines, anchovies).
The best season for hamachi is from autumn to winter, with the peak in December until late February. The young fish form a shoal and migrate from the north towards Hokkaido, along the Sea of Japan, to the south. The hamachi caught in the winter carries also the name kan hamachi (寒ハマチ). In the winter caught kan hamachi are particularly fat and therefore tastier.
Hamachi from aquaculture is available in consistent quality all year round.
Hamachi as Synonym for Farmed Buri
Traditionally, young and medium sized hamachi are called buri. In fact, however, the term hamachi is now synonymous with buri from aquaculture breeding (養殖). Wide distribution of commercially farmed hamachi began in the early 1960s and has continued on a large scale ever since. The majority of animals that reach the market after two years of mast are called hamachi.
Especially in “ordinary“ sushi restaurants farmed buri is generally named hamachi. Mostly this applies to farmed specimen with a size between 4 to 6 kg. The main breeding centers are located in the prefectures of Kagoshima, Ehime and Nagasaki. The market demand is almost completely covered by marine aquaculture. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Japan is the only significant producer of farmed buri or hamachi in the world.
Characteristics & Ecology of Hamachi (Japanese Amberjack)
The distribution range of the Japanese amberjack or yellowtail opens up from the south over the East China Sea, in the north over the Kamchatka peninsula and in the east over the northwestern Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. Large populations are found in the Japanese sea as far as to Kyushu. In the late autumn, they move in swarms southwards to spend the winter there.
The Japanese amberjack or yellowtail is a fast swimmer, that as hunt-predacious fish predominantly pursues small fishs, crustaceans and cephalopods during the day. The maximum size is about 1,5 m with a weight of 40 kg, on average most animals have a length of 1 m and a weight of about 8 kg.
Japanese yellowtail that are classified as hamachi are on average 40 to 60 cm long and have an age of one to three years.
Beast Season for Hamachi
Further information on the author can be found in the section on image credits.
Video about Hamachi
External video embedded from youtTube.com: Hiroyuki Terada - Diaries of a Master Sushi Chef. How To Fillet a Whole Hamachi - How To Make Sushi Series
Distribution Area of Hamachi
Source: Kaschner, K., Kesner-Reyes, K., Garilao, C., Segschneider, J., Rius-Barile, J. Rees, T., & Froese, R. (2019, October). AquaMaps: Predicted range maps for aquatic species. Retrieved from https://www.aquamaps.org. Scarponi, P., G. Coro, and P. Pagano. A collection of Aquamaps native layers in NetCDF format. Data in brief 17 (2018): 292-296.
Warnings Regarding Hamachi Sushi or Sashimi
- SCOMBROTOXIN: 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. [FDA, 2020]
- PHARMACEUTICAL RESIDUES: The use of unauthorized drugs or misuse of authorized drugs in seafood aquaculture poses a potential risk to human health. Only eat raw seafood from production facilities whose products are approved for raw consumption. [FDA, 2020]
Species of Hamachi
The following species are regarded as authentic. Either historically, according to the area of distribution or according to the common practice in today's gastronomy:
Common Names, Scientific Name
Japanese amberjack, amberjack, yellowtail
References & Further Reading
- [FAO FishstatJ, 2020]: Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics. Global production by production source 1950-2018 (FishstatJ). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome. 2020. Retrieved online on December 24, 2020.
- [FDA, 2020]: Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. 2020.
- [Seafood Watch, 2016]: Seafood Watch, Consulting Researcher. Yellowtail, Seriola spp., Japan, Marine Net Pens, Aquaculture Standard Version A2. Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey. 2016. Retrieved online on December 24, 2020.
- [Takagi et al., 2013]: Shusaku Takagi, Hisashi Murata, Takanobu Goto, Hideo Hatate, Hirofumi Yamashita, Akira Takano, Masaharu Ukawa. Long-term Feeding of the Yellowtail Seriola quinqueradiata with Soy Protein Concentrate-based Non-fishmeal Diet. Aquaculture Science. Source.Volume 61 (4). Japanese Society of Aquaculture Science, Mie. 2013.
Dennis Schilder. Hamachi shimo nigiri sushi: hamachi next to tail fin (ハマチしも寿司). License: copyrighted ©. Changes made: image quality, brightness, contrast, colour matching, sharpening, cropping.
nakashi. Sushi, sour, highball at tachizushi yokocho, nakano. flickr.com. License: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0). Changes made: image quality, brightness, contrast, colour matching, sharpening, cropping.