Once you know how to do it, it's easy to distinguish quality bluefin tuna from poor ones. You just need to know the details that the professionals look at when they buy bluefin tuna, use your intuition and the senses of sight, smell and taste. In this article, by Jaime Sirat, co-owner of the Taberna La Morena restaurant 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 remarkable growth in the market. But unfortunately, along with the increase in supply, unscrupulous opportunists in search of easy money have also increased. If you don't want to get caught in a poke with bluefin tuna, keep reading.
Jaime Sirat, along with Javier Cuesta and Brayan Sevilla, is the owner of Taberna La Morena Restaurant, and he is going to help us list the details that he pays attention to when he goes to buy bluefin tuna.
Jaime has almost 15 years of experience purchasing 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 his help, we are going to teach you what to look for in a bluefin tuna to guarantee its quality. There are basically 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.
1.- THE PRICE
Using common sense and knowing that bluefin tuna is a high-end product, we should be suspicious of those €5 tuna sushi menus, tuna dishes in restaurants that serve frozen or canned food, and fishmongers that sell tuna. at €8/kg. In the same way that you would be wary if they sell you barnacles at €5/kg, Raybans at €15 or Vega Sicilia at €20. A medium-quality bluefin tuna at the fish market 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 the public, but in fishmongers they are obliged to do so. If they don't, be wary. As consumers, it is our responsibility to learn to read product labels. The bluefin tuna label is your ID. It explains everything there. A correct label must include the following information:
- The brand of the product (the one that sells it, in our case JC Mackintosh), the contact details of the supplier (the one that fishes it, in our case Atún Rojo del Estrecho SL) and the contact details of the handler (the one that fishes it, in our case cuts and packs, in our case Isla de Tarifa SL).
- Trade name of the product, "Red Tuna", and scientific name, "Thunnus Thynnus"). If these two denominations do not appear on the label as is, be wary. 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 with the naked eye of inexperienced eyes and applying certain tricks (such as dyeing the meat with beetroot 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 tuna, bluefin tuna, bighorn, longtail or blackfin, among others.
- The batch number, which is like your ID number, unique and non-transferable. The weight of the batch, the way in which it is presented, the capture area and the gear used to capture 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 accordingly. 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 from 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 handler. On the website of the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN), belonging to the Ministry of Health and Consumption, 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 their 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 that business? A few minutes of research will be enough to know the reputation of the business where you are thinking of consuming.
The lot number on the label refers to the supplier's legal documentation. It is the first thing that the health administrations will look for in the event of contamination or infringement related to food. On this website there is a search engine where anyone can enter the batch number of a JC Mackintosh bluefin tuna and will obtain all the relevant information about that batch as a result. 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 visual senses 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 tripe meat has a higher fat content and is light red. The loin meat is less fat and darker red, but the meat of a plain fresh bluefin tuna should look healthy and smell fresh. If it's a dull red color and has a strong fishy smell, it's not fresh.
6. THE LESS BLOOD, THE BETTER
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 to death before consuming them. 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 like decomposed blood, 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 durability in the chamber.