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May 28, 2006

Thank You, Mr. Steingarten

Dominic Armato
On the flight over to China, Jeffrey Steingarten managed to provide an answer to one of my fish questions in It Must've Been Something I Ate, an excellent collection of his essays for Vogue. I intend to write a little more about Mr. Steingarten later, who is rapidly becoming one of my culinary heroes, but for the moment I wanted to pass along a bit of info gleaned from his essay on toro.

When the Japanese fishmongers insert the long wire into the tail immediately after killing the fish, it turns out that I was correct in my suspicion that it is being sent straight down the spinal column. And while I had thought it was part of the killing process, it would instead seem that the fish is already dead from the first stroke, and that this second step is done to improve the flavor of the fish. The idea is to stop any contraction of the muscles (I assume by simply scrambling the neural tissue in the spinal column), so that there isn't a buildup of lactic acid in the meat as the fish goes through its death throes.

This is attention to detail that I appreciate.


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