How to buy bluefin tuna, and not getting lost in the process
Once you know how to do it, it's easy to distinguish between bad and good quality bluefin tuna. You just need to know the details that professionals look at when buying it, use your intuition and the senses of sight, smell and taste. In this article, by the hand of Jaime Sirat, co-owner of Taberna La Morena in Tarifa, we are going to teach you how to use these elements so that in a short time you become an expert in identifying authentic quality bluefin tuna.
In recent years, bluefin tuna has experienced a remarkable growth in the market. But unfortunately, along with the increase in supply, unscrupulous opportunists in search for easy money has also increased. If you don't want to be given a pig in a poke with bluefin tuna, read on.
Jaime Sirat, together with Javier Cuesta and Brayan Sevilla, is the owner of Taberna La Morena Restaurant, and he is going to help us list the details he pays attention to when he goes to buy bluefin tuna.
Jaime has almost 15 years of experience buying bluefin tuna and is known as an authority on the subject. Jaime is responsible for ensuring that all the bluefin tuna served in his restaurant meets the highest quality standards. So with their help, we are going to teach you what to look for in a bluefin tuna to guarantee its quality. Basically there are six important details that you should pay attention to when you go to buy bluefin tuna at a fishmonger or order it at a restaurant.
Using common sense and knowing that bluefin tuna is a high-end product, we should be suspicious of those menus of sushi with tuna at €5, of tuna dishes in restaurants that serve frozen or canned food, and of fishmongers that sell tuna at €8/kg. In the same way that you would distrust if they sell you barnacles at €5/kg, a Rayban at €15 or a Vega Sicilia at €20. A bluefin tuna of average quality in the fishmonger should cost around €20/kg, and the price would go up as its quality increased.
2.- CHECK THE LABEL
Obviously in a restaurant, although you can ask for it, they do not expose the labels of their products to public view, but in fishmongers they are obliged to do so. If they don't, be suspicious. As consumers, it is our responsibility to learn to read product labels. The bluefin tuna label is your DNI. It explains everything there. A correct label should include the following information:
- The brand of the product (the one that markets it, in our case JC Mackintosh), the contact details of the supplier (the one that fishes it, in our case Bluefin Strait SL) and the contact details of the handler (the one that cut and packaged, in our case Isla de Tarifa SL).
- Trade name of the product, "Bluefin Tuna", and scientific name, "Thunnus Thynnus"). If these two denominations do not appear on the label as is, be suspicious. The tuna, or Thunnus, is a genus of fish that includes about ten species. Only one of them is Bluefin Tuna or Thunnus Thynnus, but to the naked eye of inexperienced eyes and applying certain tricks (such as dyeing the meat with beet juice), the meat of all of them can pass for bluefin tuna. Some of these fish, which being tuna are not bluefin tuna, are albacore, light tuna, bigeye, bluefin tuna, maroon, long-tail or blackfin tuna, among others.
- The lot number, which is like your ID number, unique and non-transferable. The weight of the lot, the way it is presented, the catch area and the gear used to catch it. These last two are important if you want to know the origin of the tuna and the level of sustainability of its capture method.
- Capture date, packaging date and expiration date. JC Mackintosh only sells fresh bluefin tuna and its expiration date is calculated as such. In cases where the buyer is going to freeze the product and depending on the type of freezer it is, the expiration date would be different from the one that appears on the label. In any case, if you see on the label that a long time has passed since the fish was caught and the date of purchase, ask the seller to explain why.
- Sanitary registration number of the supplier and the handler. On the website of the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN), belonging to the Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs, there is a search engine where you can enter these numbers and you will get the name of the company to which this number has been assigned . Obviously they must match the name that appears on the label. If not, be suspicious.
3. CAUTION WHEN BUYING FROM AN UNKNOWN SUPPLIER
Intuition should play an important role when choosing a product and assessing who you are buying from. Buying from reputable suppliers is the safest way to buy a good product. If it is the first time that you are going to buy from a supplier or consume in a restaurant, you can search online what impression your website gives you, you can see if they have regular and recent publications on their social networks, or you can ask your circle of friends What is your opinion of this business? A few minutes of research will be enough to know the reputation of the business where you are thinking of consuming.
The batch number that appears on the label refers to the supplier's legal documentation. It is the first thing that health administrations will look for in case of contamination or infringement related to food. On this web page there is a search engine where anyone can enter the batch number of a JC Mackintosh bluefin tuna and will obtain as a result all the relevant information about that batch. If a bluefin tuna does not have a batch number, do not buy it, it may be Bluefin Tuna, but it will not be a legal product that has the necessary sanitary requirements to be consumed commercially.
There is only one way to assess how fresh a bluefin tuna is, and that is by using your senses of sight to check the color and texture of the product, your sense of smell to check its smell and your sense of taste to check its taste.
By the color of the raw meat of the tuna we can see if it is fresh meat or not. The meat from the tripe has more fat content and is light red. The loin meat has less fat and is darker red, but the meat of a plain fresh bluefin tuna should look healthy and smell fresh. If it's dull red in color and smells strongly of fish, it's not fresh.
6. LESS IS MORE
Blood is the organic matter that first rots in a dead animal and where its decomposition begins. That is why all farm animals are bled before consumption. In small fish it is not so necessary, but in large fish such as bluefin tuna, if it has been previously bled, it will remain fresh for longer, it will taste like fish and not blood in a decomposed state and its texture and color will be more pleasant. in sight. On the contrary, bluefin tuna that has not been bled will produce that typical smell and taste of poor quality fish that causes so much rejection, especially in children, which is why they are so reluctant to eat fish.
All JC Mackintosh tuna have been slaughtered using a technique that guarantees total bleeding and greater shelf life.