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Sushi question: white tuna v. albacore

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A few months ago I had an amazingly delicious fish on a sashimi platter... it was pale white and had a texture that seemed smoother than salmon or the other standards, a bit sweeter, too, somehow. Regardless, it was delicious. I asked my waitress and she said it was "white tuna".

Yesterday I entered a sushi restaurant to find--joy of joys!--"white tuna" featured as a special. I ordered it but the waitress just ticked off the box for "albacore" on the standard sushi order sheet. I told her that I wanted the white tuna special, not albacore, but she said white tuna and albacore are the same thing.
The fish that arrived was greyish and didn't have that ethereal smooth texture. It was fishier tasting than what I'd remembered from the previous restaurant. It was not the same thing that I'd had before.

So, are albacore and white tuna the same thing? Was the first fish "white tuna"? What was the second fish? What happened? I am so sad.

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  1. The fish you had the first time might have been "toro" (also known as "fatty tuna"). It can have a pale pinkish to white appearance due to the high fat content, and consequently has an "ethereal smooth texture." It's also more expensive than the other tuna.

    Do an image search for fatty tuna and see what you get.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Joe MacBu
      Josh Mittleman

      White tuna isn't toro. But there's considerable confusion over what it is: I've seen definitive statements elsewhere on the web that white tuna is:

      * albacore
      * a particular cut of a normal tuna
      * a different fish called "escolar"

      I suspect all three are true: White tuna is a new fad, and I'll bet different suppliers are selling different things under the same name. Good albacore is wonderful stuff, with a nice briny flavor. The stuff I've been served as "white tuna" was bland and textureless, certainly not albacore.

      1. re: Josh Mittleman

        I'm with Josh, especially the escolar speculation.

        1. re: Alan408

          Seconding (or thirding) the escolar idea. I've had "white tuna" that was albacore and "white tuna" that was escolar. The better sushi bars have both or specify which it is.

      2. Could it have been butterfish/sable fish?

        1. it is cobia....also known as lemon fish. sweet flavor, firm texture, pinky white flesh. the belly flesh is pure white and is mostly used for sashimi. the best is from the pacific (Australia) some Japanese restaurants tell you it is butter fish but it is not. butter fish is tiny and looks like a porgy, grayish in color. go to Google and do a search on cobia and your questions will be all answered.

          1. You can call anything white tuna in a restaurant, it's marketing. If you stick it in a can, put it on a grocery store shelf and call it white tuna, it has to be albacore.

            1. I'm also thinking it was escolar. A sushi place down the street also serves it as "white tuna" and the taste / texture matches the OP's description. I asked the sushi chef what it really was since reading this thread. Escolar was the response. I'd also add that the fish is so rich and buttery, it almost has a mayonaise note to it. It's one of my favorites actually.

              2 Replies
              1. re: gatorfoodie

                I actually like escolar too. I just don't want to be charged big bucks for it because it's a cheap fish.

                1. re: gatorfoodie

                  interesting that there was recent responses to this thread. My Asian market sells "sushi grade" frozen tuna, hamachi, salmon and they had escolar or white tuna. I almost bought it since it was pure white and looked good but remembered having looked up this fish when I was served as "butterfish" at a trendy restaurant. I remembered some negative information about the laxative effect it has on some people but I have never experienced this myself. I hesitated on buying this and last night we went out for sushi and white tuna was part of our sashimi plate. It was excellent. I asked the chef if it was escolar and he confirmed it was. My brother remembers having white tuna in SF. He says it was so white and soft. He was told it was albacore but albacore is more pink and not the pearl white like escolar. There is a lot of mislabeling of fish and it's not getting any better these days. I will most likely go back to my Asian market for that block of escolar after having it raw. I think the thing is to not pig out on it as it could have a nasty side effect on some people.

                2. Albacore is called shiro maguro in Japanese. Directly translated, it's white tuna.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: brandnewuser

                    the term shiro maguro is used loosely by many restaurants as is white tuna.

                  2. What you ate A.K. is "Milk Fish" often served as sashimi, it is dead-white and very juicy. Great as sashimi, not so good as sushi, Often time Joints will call it White Tuna, but it has no relation to the tuna at all.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ChuToro

                      In Taiwan, shue mo yu is milkfish, extremely boney and not even used as sashimi, a local delicacy.

                      Pearly white = escolar.

                      Shiro Maguro typically is albacore, although with the proliferation of escolar, it is now being used interchangeably with escolar (sadly) and the real term in Japanese for albacore is binaga maguro.

                      Escolar has also been renamed as butterfish, walu or waloo, ono (in rare cases).

                      1. re: K K

                        I ordered sashimi last night and asked for white tuna. I confirmed that it was escolar.

                    2. So called "White Tuna" usually isn't tuna at all. It's Escolar, deep sea fish. It is banned for consumption in Japan. So, you will never find that "white tuna" in any Sushi restaurant in Japan. Escolar is also a cheap fish. Escolar's high fat content is indigestible to human and can cause problem. That's why it is banned in Japan and some other countries. It tastes good, I admit it. However, I stopped eating it after I found out about the possible danger and ban in Japan. It's also high in mercury.


                      It's called Walu in Hawaii. Many people still eat this fish. Good luck if you still eat it!

                      1. I am a sushi junkie! I love sushi. Maybe I can give you the answer you are searching for. The white fish you had at the first sushi bar is called escolar, they refer to it as "white tuna" but it is not of the tuna family. You can learn about it on Google. I am a yellowtail eater, and when I first tried the escolar or white tuna, I was blown away. It has become my favorite sushi bar item. I hope that helps you. Aloha from the island of Kauai.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: donkimi

                          Just don't have more than 4 ounces. And yes, it's escolar. Until the past couple of years albacore was sometimes sold as white tuna, but escolar has been making the rounds since, and albacore is usually called albacore these days.

                        2. "white tuna" is escolar, not a tuna and if eaten in high amounts will make u pee out your but like a laxative would. Its cheap and many sushi bars try to pass it off as tuna but it is not. Be careful eating too much of it or you and your bowels will pay the price.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: freshsushicatering

                            There is some legitimate white tuna. But if it's pearly white it's most likely escolar. You have to eat a bunch, like greater than 4-6 oz to have the laxative effect and even then it varies by consumer. I had it once as a seared fish at a restaurant. A nice size portion before I knew what it was. No issues at all from its consumption