Bleed it Out


Feast. Salmon roe sushi. Hamachi Kama.

I’ve eaten Hamachi Kama a bunch in my culinary adventures, but never exactly knew where the cut came from on the body of the fish.

Some funky lighting. Frisee-looking salad with Hamachi Kama.

So, a little bit of research, some ghetto pictures of people cutting carp, and some rudimentary “cut-here” photos later, this is what I basically came up with.

Cut along the dotted line.

Since we’re on the topic of chopping fish, there was an interesting article written in in issue two of Lucky Peach that detailed the Japanese practice of ike jime, a method of slaughtering and bleeding fish in order to preserve the texture and flavor.

The official process is outlined by the Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation:

“For some markets, especially the sushi and sashimi markets, flatfish can be bled using the “ike jime” procedure in which a cut is made toward the front of the flatfish, severing the major artery and the spinal cord. Placement of the cut is made to preserve the greatest amount of flatfish flesh. This paralyzes the flatfish. A second cut is made in the tail to hasten the removal of blood. Flatfish are then chilled slowly to maintain circulation and facilitate the bleeding process. After the flatfish have been bled, they are transferred to a salt/ice water slurry and chilled to 12 degrees Centigrade.”

A search of Dr. Google revealed an ike jime tool, as shown here. They call it a “brain immobilizer,” which directly incapacitates the fish, and kills it humanely. The “brain immobilizer” (basically a glorified screwdriver) is inserted between the main gills and the second row of gills, and angled slightly downward, instantly targeting the medulla oblongata. The fish is then drained on an ice slurry through a major artery (the caudal vein). Interesting video. Sort of promotional.

The bleeding that takes place after ike jime usually entails bleeding the fish from the major artery on the front of the fish, as well as the tail. Fish are then quickly chilled while bleeding in order improve the fishes’ circulation (whatever’s left of it…).

The Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation specifies the practice of ike jime in the sushi and sashimi markets; there is a demand for this type of practice, especially in Japanese waters.

However, what are the effects of ike jime on cooked fish? Does the humane slaughter (eh, oxymoron?) and bleeding of fish confer a different taste when, grilled, poached…etc?

Some scientific articles detail the production of high quality fish muscle as a careful process of reducing “pre-harvest” exercise. The less the fish moves, the better it is for the fish. Basically, rested muscles taste better than exhausted muscles. The benefits of ike jime come from complete destruction of the brain, which not only inhibits the fish from moving and further exhausting the muscles, but also delays the rigor mortis process (the irreversible hardening of flesh, due to the lack of ATP. I write about this here. Less rigor mortis from the start means the muscle proteins are less contracted and looser to begin with. Cooking meat that is less contracted usually confers more tender flesh. (Unless you severely overcook it, which has been known to happen in my household/by my hands).

Donor Sushi. Fish equivalent of a sperm bank.

Some references, for those who think I’m full of it.

Jerrett, A.R., Stevens, A.J. Tensile Properties of White Muscle in Rested and Exhausted Salmon (Oncorthynchus tshawytscha). Journal of Food Science. 1996. 61 (3): 527-532.