Sushi made with deer meat, anyone? How about a slice of raw horse on that rice?
These are some of the most extreme alternatives being considered by Japanese chefs as shortages of tuna threaten to remove it from Japan’s sushi menus — something as unthinkable here as baseball without hot dogs or Texas without barbecue.
In this seafood-crazed country, tuna is king. From maguro to otoro, the Japanese seem to have almost as many words for tuna and its edible parts as the French have names for cheese. So when global fishing bodies recently began lowering the limits on catches in the world’s rapidly depleting tuna fisheries, Japan fell into a national panic.
Nightly news programs ran in-depth reports of how higher prices were driving top-grade tuna off supermarket shelves and the revolving conveyer belts at sushi chain stores. At nicer restaurants, sushi chefs began experimenting with substitutes, from cheaper varieties of fish to terrestrial alternatives and even, heaven forbid, American sushi variations like avocado rolls.
“It’s like America running out of steak,” said Tadashi Yamagata, vice chairman of Japan’s national union of sushi chefs. “Sushi without tuna just would not be sushi.”
The problem is the growing appetite for sushi and sashimi outside Japan, not only in the United States but also in countries with new wealth, like Russia, South Korea and China. And the problem will not go away. Fishing experts say that the shortages and rising prices will only become more severe as the population of bluefin tuna — the big, slow-maturing type most favored in sushi — fails to keep up with worldwide demand.
[Via NY Times]