We all have those dishes that, no matter how many hundreds of times we have had them, you simply can’t resist ordering. I’ve got quite a few, which can be a hindrance for someone that both loves to and is professionally obligated to try new things when eating out. But I’m also a creature of weak will when it comes to my stomach.
And when I’m ponied up to a sushi bar, I can’t bring myself to ignore an order of Hamachi Kama. This is the collar cut – the area right behind the head/gills of the fish – of yellowtail.
At first sight, the collar doesn’t look like much more than scraps, especially when raw. But those in the know see the sexiest, fattiest, most succulent cut of fish around, and drool accordingly. Typically served grilled, with little more than salt and a side of ponzu, the collar – or the cheek, as some menus semi-accurately call it – is to fish what the “oyster” is to chicken: A treat most chefs would probably rather save for themselves.
Oily, tender, fatty, and often a little grey in color, this is essentially the dark meat of the fish. By the time most of my dining companions are reaching for their chopsticks, I’m already digging glorious morsels out of the pockets of the collar bone. (Tip for beginners: The harder you have to dig for the meat, the better the bite will be.)
As you can see, I’d already begun ravaging an order at Tomo before I remembered to snap a photo. Consider yourselves lucky that isn’t just a picture of picked-over bone.
However, what was once a late night snack for the kitchen staff has caught on, and some restaurants will charge upwards of $12-$15 for one 4-6 oz portion (though I find $8-$10 to be more common). While I’m happy to pay that, whipping this dish up at home is easy and extremely inexpensive. You just have to know where to look.
Sometimes, if you are lucky, somewhere like Whole Foods may have a bin of collars, or you can ask the fishmonger if they have any in the back that you can buy. But Asian grocery stores, Hmart, Buford Highway Farmer’s Market, or YDFM are usually surefire bets. Just go to the seafood section and look for what appears to be the scrap heap…don’t let it throw you, there is pure gold in there. And if there is no yellowtail collar behind the glass, salmon (sake kama) is just as delicious.
Once you have your fish, all you need is a grill, some salt, a side of ponzu for dipping, and a lemon slice garnish, and you can have some delicious kama at home for only a few dollars. Season the fish, grill over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, turning twice, until the outside crisps, and you are all set.
That isn’t much of a “recipe”, I realize, but that is the beauty of kama…you don’t really have to do anything other than buy it, grill it, and eat. It is an easy way to impress your friends….assuming you actually let them have any of it.
- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog