Real maguro (tuna) collars
The Chowhound Team split this discussion from its original location on the Los Angeles region board. If you know a source in L.A. for tuna collars, please respond here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/682769
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It would be highly unlikely to find a true, bone fide maguro collar unless you’ve got some serious fish market connections. The maguro collar is one of the most highly prized, selected cuts from an increasingly rare and highly valuable fish, the Bluefin tuna. Its appearance, texture and flavor, surprisingly, approximate that of wagyu beef. Demand far exceeds supply, especially among upper echelon sushi bars and restaurants, particularly in Japan.
If, indeed, you have enjoyed a meal that included genuine maguro collar, do consider it one those “meals of a lifetime”. For home preparation, fresh yellowtail collar may well have to suffice. If not, the search is on and do expect to dearly reward the purveyor if and when found.
Well, there's nothing really rare or exotic about tuna collar in Japan. It's a cheap throwaway item that you can buy for less than $10 at most large supermarkets or the fish mongers in depachika. The meat for sushi is harvested long before it reaches there or restaurants and what remains is the bone, along with meat in the concave parts and in all the nooks and crannies. It can take a long time to grill so it's often stewed or simmered. It's one of my favorite foods, but I don't know about meal of a lifetime. My buddy and I used to get it as a post drinking treat at a place in Ebisu. It was grilled with just sea salt.
There's nothing rare or exotic about tuna collar, typically Yellowtail, pretty much anywhere (about $7-9 at your local sushi bar or izakaya). The OP specifically requested Maguro (Bluefin) collar. Therein lies the rare and exotic. A 440 pound Bluefin brought about $220,000 at a recent Japanese fish market auction, i.e., $500/lb!
"Maguro" is the generic term for "tuna" in Japanese. "Hon-maguro" is bluefin tuna specifically. The type of yellowtail they grill the collar with is called "hamachi" in Japanese. It's not yellowtail tuna but a different fish.
As tradition in Japan, in the New Year, someone will buy a large bluefin at Tsukiji at an exorbitant price. This is meant as an ostentatious display of business bravado. It shouldn't be taken as an example of rarity. Grilled blue fin collar is a cheap izakaya dish. I've had it in NY for $15 (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/228523). All tuna, blue fin or otherwise, is ubiquitous, in Japan. Not all bluefins are 440 lbs....Now something like ippon-zuri Omezaki hon-maguro (single line caught bluefin tuna from Omezaki Bay), that's a different story. Probably would be more expensive, but worth it.
I would call the Japanese markets or Japanese restaurants to see if they have it.
So supposedly there's a cut of toro by the cheek or collar (or jowl?), referred to as kama toro, having the most marbling (more than o-toro), like super fatty high end Mishima or Miyazaki wagyu.
I assume the tuna collar served at izakaya's and other J-restaurants excludes that bit of kama toro?
Also are you getting just the collar (like hamachi kama) or you getting like half a head (or whole) as in "maguro no kabutoyaki"?
re: K K
Kama is not really the cheek- like below the eyes. It's the sickle shaped bone at the back of the head. A guess on a fish, that's analagous to the collar.(A "kama" is actually a type of sickle tool. That's where the name comes from.). I think it's safe to assume that any delectable and prized bits that are of value for sushi are removed at the wholesale level. I'm not exaggerating when I say that you can often buy maguro kama/collars or whatever for about 1000 YEN in the sort of throwaway bin at fish markets in Japan. People don't really have big ovens in their homes in Japan, so it's kind of cumbersome to cook I suppose.
For hamachi kama, I think it depends on the size of the fish. I've had it before when it was a kind of spare rib looking thing and also half a grilled head. There's no set definition for this stuff. It's down market izakaya food. That said, the above recipe linked item looks like a great upmarket twist. One interesting thing is that in the description of the dish, it says to use the "tuna on the bone throat meat". Cheek, collar, jowl, throat. I think we all could do for a tuna anatomy lesson....
There are lotsa of Bluefin Tuna off the California coast-the idea that the species is rare is nonsense.
Giant BFT are over fished true but there never have been giants off the west coast of the Americas.
Also Please Note-'Yellowtail' is not Tuna YellowFIN (Thunnus Albacares) is Tuna.
Lots of YFT off California in season-Albacore too.