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Oct 18, 2007 09:16 PM

Japanese Butterfish: what is it?

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Butterfish is a totally different fish from sable/black cod. Perhaps you're correct that they call sable "butterfish" in this or these instances, but butterfish is an actual commercial fish which is torally different. Butterfish is a thin but deep fish (in shape like a pompano), whereas black cod is long and pretty thin, a fresh water fish which has those little bones which get in the way of everything, but has a flesh which tastes great, and works best either smoked or in paper-thin slices against the bones, so that each bone fragment is the thinness of the slice, then cooked quickly in a bowl of soup or broth in a chafing dish.

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  1. The Japanese dish called "butterfish" is made from black cod (aka sable fish) that is marinated in a miso sauce and char-grilled.

    Maybe you're thinking of a "pomfret" ???

    1. You can check out Roy Yamaguchi's (Roy's) butterfish recipe which is probably similar to what the OP was referring to:

      5 Replies
      1. re: monku

        I think you're both right. Psenopsis anomala is the Japanese Butterfish - it looks kind of like a pompano.

        As Mr. Yamaguchi refers to Black Cod being used in his butterfish recipe and the two being the same, he is kind of accurate as well and I believe he is referring to this fish: Anoplopoma fibria, which has, "butterfish," listed as a commercial name as well, but not preceded by the name, "Japanese."

        Now the question is, which did the OP have?

        1. re: bulavinaka

          Maybe my problem is that I'm not an ichthyologist and all the people who know it as "butterfish" are all wrong.

          I've had the "butterfish" that the OP and other poster's are referring to at Roy's and at Bruddah's....and it is always made with black cod/sable fish. There is no question which the OP had. I referred to it as "Japanese Butterfish" as a dish so as to clearly identify what 95% of people who have eaten it would know that it's black cod/sable fish which is marinated in miso sauce and grilled and not . "MISOYAKI BUTTERFISH"

          1. re: monku

            Even better is shoyu butterfish - at the Okazu-yas of hawaii

            1. re: monku

              Likewise, I've eaten the version that you speak of since I was knee-high to a bun-bun mushi. Very delicate and rich flesh that the word, "tender," cannot even come close to describing this wonderful fish. I threw in the Latin to hopefully show that there is a difference. While I'm probably familiar with a fair number of fishes more so than the average Joe, I'm no ichthyologist either. In fact, thanks for spelling out the word so I don't have to look up the proper spelling.

              The type of dish that you refer to is in no doubt the black cod, Anoplopoma. However, the OP in the original thread doesn't give enough description of what he ate. And I've never been to the place that the OP has been to. And since I've never tried the "pompano-like" Psenopsis, I couldn't tell anyone what this fish comparitively tastes like. Since the OP did not preface his grilled butterfish with the term, misoyaki, he still leaves questions in my mind. Monku, I'm not trying to annoy you - just threw in my two cents from what I gathered off the net, and what little I know as well... Peace, brah...

              1. re: monku

                As an ichthyologist you would go crazy on the Atantic coast. True whiting are called kingfish or sea mullet, assorted hake are called everything from ling to whiting to lake trout to oyster trout. Some inner city joints serve bonefish sandwiches which of course is fish with the bones still intact. I could go on but you get the point I'm sure.

          2. One sushi-ya in Seattle (Kisaku) served me "butterfish" as seared ebodai (hikarimono tane).

            Another local place in SF Bay Area (Mountain View, California) at Sushi Tomi, their "butterfish" was seared medai (member of the tai species).

            Sushi Zo in Los Angeles offered a seared butterfish that had neither textures of the above. It was one of the more forgettable tane's. Keizo-san said it was from Japan.

            So there you have it, three versions of the butter fish...

              1. re: David W

                I have eaten escolar sold as butterfish. Actually it was quite good. No laxitive effect. I resently was served "white tuna" sashimi which was escolar. Also no intestinal problems. The key maybe in not eating too much

              2. I know this is an old thread but I just came across it and wanted to point out some incorrect information.

                I recall years ago in LA that fish labeled "Butterfish" was, in fact, Black Cod.

                Please note that what's called "Black Cod" in the Western U.S. aka Sablefish is not a fresh water fish. It's a salt water fish that's caught all along the West Coast and up to Alaska.

                Also, "Medai" is not a member of the "Tai" species. Medai and Tai belong in different families of fish, i.e., Hyperoglyphe vs. Sparidae, respectively.

                2 Replies
                1. re: formerfishmonger

                  Butterfish is ibodai in Japanese. Black cod or sablefish is gindara in Japanese.

                  1. re: calumin

                    Right. I should have added that in my post.