Ahi for sashimi? This one, eat today is good, two days not so good. This one, you can keep two or three days.” Hatsuko Nakazato, the mom of Chinatown’s mom-and-pop Nakazato Fish Market, points into a display case lined with ahi quarters of different prices.
“You don’t want this one—it’s for cooking.”
“What’s the difference?” a customer asks. “Is it older?”
“Yes, older,” Hatsuko says.
This is why you come here, to places like Nakazato, at 40 years the reigning fishmonger at Oahu Market. These are places where the person behind the counter is the person who bought the fish, either from the Honolulu fish auction or local fishing boats, often that very morning. Like Hatsuko’s husband, Masateru, who doesn’t recall any job in his 70-plus years that didn’t involve working with fish, even in his native Okinawa.
Now Masateru chops an ahi kama, or collar, into pieces, while his wife explains her recipe for simmering it in soy sauce, sugar, sake and mirin. Without a successor, the Nazakatos plan to retire next spring, but there are other fishmongers at Oahu Market, and they buy fresh fish locally. Most importantly, you can ask them about it.
Buys ahi at Honolulu fish auction daily. Sells quarters priced according to fat content, freshness and other qualities. Also sells fresh ahi poke, ahi kama and other parts.
Oahu Market, 145 N. King St., 536-3117
Second-generation seafood purveyor that buys ahi at the fish auction daily. Sells a large range of quarters priced according to grade, including more affordable fresh pieces, often under $10 a pound. Also sells poke made with fresh ahi, along with ahi kama, ribs and egg sacs if available. Only when the price of local ahi gets “really, really, really ridiculous,” will Tamashiro sell previously frozen imports, labeled.
802 N. King St., 841-8047
High-end purveyor Taketoshi Gibo buys ahi only from the auction, except on days he doesn’t find anything he likes, in which case he doesn’t open. Usually he sells two grades of ahi quarters: a more expensive one that includes a richer, fattier swath next to the skin (think $30-something per pound) and a less expensive, lean, akami cut. Also sells pre-cut sashimi blocks, sashimi packs featuring ahi three ways—chutoro, akami and a slightly fatty portion—and made-to-order sashimi rice bowls.
99 Ranch Market, 1151 Mapunapuna St., 834-8485
Can’t get to a specialty fish market? The seafood counters at Marukai, Times and Foodland sell a variety of packaged, fresh ahi cuts: from fillets to sashimi blocks to bellies. Times and Foodland also use previously frozen, gassed ahi (to get that bright pink color) in some of their poke. These are always labeled. Various locations.