Even with “white tuna,” not everything is always as it seems. For a myriad of unknown reasons, restaurants will sometimes sell something under a different name, confusing the customer (at best) and hurting them (at worst). Often, they get away with it, but sometimes… Well… You read the news.
I bring this up because there is an item often served at sushi restaurants called “white tuna” (shiro maguro), or “super white tuna,” that is sometimes supposed to be albacore tuna, which is very light in color (hence why it is called white tuna) on the menu. However, sometimes you may be served a different fish, called “escolar” (AKA “butterfish”) which is often called super white tuna) however I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve seen escolar served but simply called “white tuna” on the menu. When I order white tuna I always ask the staff if it is escolar or albacore, so it actually is easy to clear up any confusion should you be ordering this item. Legal requirements aside, it’s bad enough to sell a product that people think is something a different fish, but it is particularly significant with escolar, as some people just aren’t able to handle that the different types of fats in the fish very well. As evidenced by an Australian Government’s article warning people of the issue, there are oils and various fatty esters in that fish which are not in most fish, or in the same quantities, which can cause significant gastrointestinal distress in some individuals.
Even if you are able to eat a small portion of escolar with no issues, in larger quantities if eaten in quantity *that* may lead to spending an evening in the washroom. This will not be a fun time if you are planning a night out and are less able to digest the types of fats in this fish efficiently. Of course if you are of the perspective, many a not very nice practical joke has been played on people by others loading their unwitting friends’ plates with super white tuna in anticipation of the results. I don’t find it to be a particularly funny thing to do to someone, but the results are very real and can be quite distressing for some.
Sushi can confusing enough for newcomers, and even those who are very familiar with the dish are sometimes not aware of practices such as this. And this is not to say that all white tuna is escolar and every restaurant serves escolar without including the word “super” in the item name, but you never know, so it’s typically good to ask. But if you happen to get it as a surprise, and you have a more sensitive tummy, you’ll unfortunately know soon enough.
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Though for some Escolar can be quite troublesome to eat , as it will create a frequent visit to the toiler due to its oily flesh.
Actually there is a way to eat which is quite palatable , worth the risk of getting the toilet.
It is the Korean way , and can be considerd an ” acquired taste”
Frozen the Escolar saku, and once from frozen cut them into bite size portion as you would with regular tuna. While it is frozen, wrap it with dried seaweed and dip it in a bit of salt and sesame oil.
It taste like “fish icecream” and really melt in the tongue and mouth. Good stuff, but be easy on yourself especially if you are sensitive to escolar.
White Tuna is definitely a confusing label. Even four years after you wrote this, we still have a fair amount of confusion between Escolar and Albacore. And you already covered the perils of Escolar, but it is worth noting that Escolar can be confused and/or mislabeled as many, many other fish.
Ultimately, once you see Albacore and Escolar side by side, you can see that they dont actually look that similar.
Well, I have had a personal encounter with a Sashimi made with a non real WHITE TUNA. Probably it has been made with a fish from the ESCOLAR family.
The taste is very similar to a White Tuna, but the result of this dinner stays with me for 2 or 3 days. Was the same feeling after have a dinner with a small size of OIL FISH ( also almost white).
I like to say that white tuna or escolar is very safe to eat.The Polynesian people have been consuming escolar for thousand of years, it is a delicacy in mid polynesia where it is plentiful.
You will not better fish than escolar or white tuna. Those who wish to abstain, please do so.
Thank you, Arahu Marsters
I have eaten white tuna at a local buffet. I now know it is not tuna.
My additional point is that on this particular buffet is that the reddish colored tuna is dyed and leaks red food coloring on the rice.
I think the Escolar is being colored to mimic tuna. The flavor is the same, alittle drier but dyed pink to red. Obviously, a new version and those sensitive to Escolar should watch if their fish leaks red color to limit how much thay consume.
Escolar, or “white tuna” is banned in Japan and a few other countries. Word: don’t order it. Any decent trained Sushi Chef would not even serve it.