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What Is Tuna Belly?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 16, 2024
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Tuna belly is a food item that is commonly listed on sushi menus as toro. It has a pink and white marbleized appearance and may be served raw or slightly cooked. Toro may be served with rice and is often enjoyed with wasabi and soy sauce. Compared with other sushi items, it is usually among the most expensive and is considered a delicacy by many people. Factors that affect the enjoyment of the food include the portion of the belly served, the temperature of it when it is consumed, and its freshness.

The main culinary use of tuna belly is to make sushi. It is generally considered to be one of the more desirable sushi items. Tuna belly is often served as nigiri, which is a slice of food served over a mound of vinegared rice. Some people prefer it as sashimi, which is a slice of the food without the rice.

In either case, the toro can be raw, or it can be singed. If it is to be eaten raw, it is generally recommended that it be allowed to reach room temperature before consumption. Doing so is said to allow an individual to better enjoy both the texture and flavor. Toro has high fat content; hence its marbelization. It is also an oily food with high omega-3 content.

Much of the excitement about tuna belly is likely to be its cost. It tends to be expensive due in part to the fact that only a limited amount is available from each fish. Furthermore, all tuna belly is not considered to be equal. The lower area is normally referred to as supreme tuna belly, and it is considered to be the most succulent due to fat content that is higher than the rest of the belly. This part of the toro tends to be even more expensive.

Tuna belly is a food whose price can be very volatile. The cost may be dependent on a number of factors, such as the location of where it is caught and the location of the end consumer. One of the factors that tends to weigh heaviest on the price, however, is the number of fish obtained on a given day. Toro is commonly taken from the blue fin variety of tuna.

Freshness is considered essential to the enjoyment of this food. It is often shipped overnight from seller to buyer, further adding to the cost in many cases. Though much effort and expense is invested in it, toro was not always highly regarded. In fact, it was once a part of the fish that was considered highly undesirable and was readily discarded.

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Discussion Comments

By ddljohn — On Feb 03, 2014

Toro is not everyone's cup of tea but I personally like it. The flavor of toro sashimi, oddly enough, reminds me of butter.

It's hard to believe that in the United States, most tuna belly is used to make cat food. This is the same part of the tuna that's the most highly prized and the most expensive in Japan.

By turquoise — On Feb 03, 2014

@SarahGen-- Tuna belly really is very good, I highly recommend it, with pickled ginger and wasabi.

Food poisoning is a risk with raw fish, but only if the fish is not fresh and handled improperly. If you eat at a high quality restaurant, this should never be a problem. The color and scent of the tuna should also give you an idea of how fresh it is. The tuna should be a nice pink color, it should be tender and it should not have a strong scent to it.

Also, tuna belly should be eaten in season because that's when it's most tender and tasty. The fattier the tuna belly, the better. A sushi chef can tell you about the fat content of the tuna belly.

By SarahGen — On Feb 02, 2014

I've heard great things about tuna belly. Everyone tells me that it's the best. I've had vegetarian sushi, but that doesn't really count. I've never had real sushi with raw fish. I'm a little worried about hygiene and safety. I have a sensitive stomach and I'm worried that I might get food poisoning from raw fish. If I ever work up the courage to try sushi though, tuna belly or toro tuna will be my first choice.

By Certlerant — On Feb 02, 2014

Good point, Glasis. Imagine the difference we could make on world hunger if more people were willing to eat foods that are unfamiliar to them, or even animals that we are not accustomed to eating.

We have drawn too much a line between what is a pet and what is a potential source of food.

By Glasis — On Feb 01, 2014

It is interesting that tuna belly used to be thrown away and is now considered a delicacy in the sushi world.

There are countries in the world, especially in Asia, where no part of an animal ever goes to waste. For example, fish head stew is a staple in Thailand.

Western culture has adopted the thinking that some foods or parts of an animal would be disgusting to eat. That is not the case everywhere.

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