Tuna is one of the most common types of fish used in sushi, and comes in less-fatty to more-fatty varieties, depending on the part of the fish it comes from. The more fatty the section of tuna is, the higher the price for it will be. High grade sushi restaurants sometimes sell a single plate of Otoro tuna for several thousands of yen. It’s actually said that the Toro section of the tuna was thrown away during the Edo period! What could be the reason? Let’s figure out why by taking a look at 9 different types of tuna sushi, including the ever popular Maguro.

The Edo Period: When Only Non-fatty Tuna Was Eaten

Are you familiar with tuna-zuke donburi? “Zuke” means to marinate something. “Donburi” refers to a type of dish that places ingredients on top of a bowl of white rice.

Tuna-zuke donburi is a dish that takes tuna that was marinated in a sauce made from soy sauce, sake, and sesame oil and places it over white rice. It often comes with toppings of perilla leaf, nori, and sesame seeds. It’s even said that “zuke” dishes were derived from the popularity of tuna sushi in the city.

How Tuna Was Eaten During the Edo Period

Because refrigeration technology wasn’t developed yet in the Edo period, tuna that was caught by deep-sea fisheries would start to go bad before it could reach the heart of Tokyo. This is why the fish needed to be processed beforehand. From this dilemma came the process of marinating maguro in soy sauce, which made it safe to be transported raw. This is basically the same “zuke” process that is used today.

On the other hand, the toro section of tuna is quite fatty and soy sauce couldn’t penetrate the fat, so it was thrown away. After refrigeration technology developed, people started to eat the toro section of the tuna. Because of its delicious taste, and it being a rare cut, it is an expensive part of the tuna.

Let’s take a look at 9 of the most common types of tuna sushi. Follow along to see if you recognize some of them!

Tuna Nigiri

First, let’s look at the quintessential nigiri sushi. The sushi on the left of the photo is “akami.” This type of tuna has a sturdy, meaty mouthfeel. The sushi on the right of the photo is “toro.” The lighter its color, the more fatty it is. One of the reasons tuna is so popular is because of the sweetness of its fatty parts, and the unique flavor it has when it’s paired with wasabi.

Aburi Tuna Nigiri

This type of sushi is made when tuna toro nigiri sushi is lightly broiled on the top. By broiling the fish, water from the surface is slightly evaporated, and the umami flavor is condensed. This broiling process gives the tuna a lingering fragrance.

Tuna Temaki-zushi

This is the quintessential temaki sushi. This type of sushi is a popular choice for children as well since it can be eaten without dirtying the hands.

Tuna Maki-zushi

This is a quintessential maki-zushi. Tuna has a lovely coloring, so it’s often used in many festive sushi dishes in parties. When rolled up together with green foods such as cucumber or avocado and cut, it makes for a picturesque dish.

Tekka Maki or Tuna Hosomaki-zushi

Although this is made in the same way as the maki-zushi above, this roll only has tuna inside and is rolled to be thin. The word “tekka” uses the kanji for “steel” and “fire.” One of the possible explanations for the origins of this name is said to be because tekka maki-zushi resembles the red-hot bullets shot from a gun. Another explanation is that this dish was often eaten in gambling houses called “tekkaba,” and that’s how it got its name. It’s said tekka maki was developed because it could be eaten easily with one hand without getting one’s hands dirty while focusing on gambling. This story has similarities to the Earl of Sandwich doesn’t it?

Tekka or Tuna Donburi

This dish is a donburi that takes tuna sashimi and places it over a bed of fresh white rice. This donburi was named “tekkadon” as a sort of shift from the idea of tekka maki.

Tuna Kazari Maki-zushi

Although maki-zushi is usually wrapped in nori, there are versions in which it can be wrapped in fish, such as this. This is a type of decorative sushi, so it’s referred to as “kazari maki.” This type of sushi is perfect for parties.

Negi Toro Gunkan

“Gunkan maki” is a type of sushi that takes nigiri sushi and wraps it in nori. Gunkan mainly use ingredients that spill easily on their own, such as salmon roe and sea urchin. The picture above uses toro tuna that has been turned into a paste and placed on top with green onions.