Madai Snapper

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(Pagrus major): FARM RAISED

AN ICONIC FISH IN JAPAN’S CUISINE – AND CULTURE – the Madai Snapper is actually not a snapper but a sea bream from the Sparidae family. Hailed as the best eating among the many species of sea bream – usually know as “tai” – found in Japanese and regional Pacific waters (Batodai, Hanadai, Ishidai, Kinmeidai, and Mekkida are just some examples), Madai are known as the “True Seabream” or “Genuine Tai” – a testament to its prestige as the best eating of all the bream varieties.

The presence of “tai” within Japanese tradition is a long one. Ancient shellfish mounds dating back 5,000 years include large quantities of tai bones and even the fish hooks used to catch them. An eighteenth century Japanese manuscript lists nearly 100 methods of preparations of tai alone. Literally translated, “mede-tai” in Japanese means “wanting of admiration” or “auspicious” and “celebratory” – and is often served (usually salt-grilled) at celebratory feasts from New Year to weddings, and even the birth of a child. Tais were also once presented to the Shoguns and later the Emperor as gifts of respect.

Like the Tai Snapper found in New Zealand or the “Besugo” breams found in the Mediterranean, the Madai has large eyes and distinct reddish to orange scales. Fished along the many islands of Japan, demand is so high that aquaculture has rapidly eclipsed wild harvest, and export to the US is modest when compared to national consumption. Their flesh is light with a pinkish tinge, and cooks up white, with medium flake/texture, but it is most frequently served raw in sashimi or preserved in rice miso, mirin/sake or konbu/seaweed. It is also traditional in Japanese cuisine to grill them whole with or without salt or to steam them. These fish are also excellent in ceviche and carpaccio dishes, or in recipes calling for red snapper.

Madai are directly imported fresh from Japan, never frozen, and generally weigh in at about 2 lbs each.

Source: “Tai: Japan’s King of Fish”, by Tomoya Akimichi

Harvest Region: Japan

Seasonality: Year Round

Catch Method: Aqua Culture

Yield (Fillet Percentage): 50 %

Flavor Profile: Delicate and Sweet

Texture Profile: Firm and Flaky

Substitute:

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