Japanese Amberjack / Hamachi
The Japanese Amberjack is called Hamachi when it has grown to about 6 pounds, and Buri when it has reached 10 pounds, but it can grow to about 5 feet and 80 pounds. The photo specimen was 19 inches long and weighed 3 pounds 2 ounces. This fish is most common along the coasts of Japan and Korea, but is sometimes found as far east as Hawaii and Baja California, Mexico. It is very popular in Japan, eaten both raw and cooked particularly in winter when it is fattier. It is now extensively farmed, but this is done done by capturing juveniles in the wild, not an ecologically ideal method.
More on Jacks and Trevally.
This fish is very like the Yellowtail Amberjack but doesn't grow as large and has a much more restricted range. They can usually be told apart by coloration, but definitively, the upper jaw of the Japanese is very squared off right under the eye, whereas on Yellowtail it is more rounded.
Flesh of this fish is medium in color, with a deep strip of very dark meat down the centerline, but this dark meat doesn't differ greatly from the lighter flesh in taste or oiliness. It's not a fish for those who want "fish lite", but is highly prized by those who actually like fish.
While raw Hamachi is very popular in sushi bars, it is also very fine cooked. The flesh becomes quite firm when baked, steamed or poached, but is easily broken into large flakes. It holds together well enough for fish stews.
Buying: I have found these in Philippine and Asian markets here in Los Angeles, California. In season they can be quite economical. I bought the photo specimen, and a couple more, for US $1.99/pound. These markets also often have California Yellowtail Amberjacks, which are pretty much interchangeable with the Japanese.
Scales: These are tiny and easy to scrape off with only moderate flying around.
Cleaning: The main problem here is size. There are a lot of membranes and such that are not easy to pull out without using your long nose pliers. Be sure to scrape through the long swim bladder and scrape off the blood works above it. Use kitchen shears to cut both ends of the gills to make them easier to pull out.
Filleting: This fish is very easy to fillet. When you get down to the rib cage don't bother trying to follow the bones with your knife. Just use kitchen shears to cut the ribs from the backbone and pull them from the fillets with your long nose pliers. They pull easily and take almost no flesh. The skirt is thick and meaty on these fish.
There are substantial centerline spines for the front half of the fish. They are easy to find - just pull them out straight forward.
Yield: A 3 pound 2 ounce fish yielded 1 pound 13-3/8 ounces of skin-on fillet (59%) and 1 pound 10-1/2 ounces skin-off (53%).
Skin: The skin has very little shrink when fried or poached. The flavor is a little oilier than that of the flesh, but not unpleasantly so. Cubes cut for stew can be left skin-on if you wish. Skinning fillets is quite easy, but for so large a fish it is best to split them along the centerline, even if you knife is long enough for the full width.
Stock: The head, bones and fins make a very serviceable nearly clear stock of medium flavor. There is a fair amount of oil which should be removed before us (use your gravy separator). For details see our Fish Stock page.