What is Hamachi ハマチ ?
Hamachi in Japanese represents a japanese yellowtail (buri) of medium size. 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 an Ingredient for Sushi and 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 captured specimens. The taste of a farm cultivated specimen is lighter and less intense.
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
The distribution range of the japanese 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 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.