What Is Sanmai Oroshi and How To’s With Chef Yuji Haraguchi

Chef Yuji Haraguchi’s passion for seafood goes above and beyond. He left his salesman position in Japan to move and work for True World Foods. During his career working for one of the largest fish distributors in the US, he gained a deep understanding of the importance of sustainable seafood and the restaurant industry. Since then, he has moved on to become the chef owner of Okonomi Restaurant and Yuji Ramen located in Brooklyn, NY. His mission is to provide Japanese hospitality and cuisine rooted in Japanese mottainai (no waste) philosophy. In recent years, he uses his extensive knowledge about fish to offer a variety of hands-on classes including sushi, fish butchery, and ramen making through Osakana BK. He graciously joins us today to demonstrate how to butcher fish using the sanmai oroshi method. 

What is sanmai oroshi?

Sanmai oroshi is a Japanese fish butchering technique, where you divide the fish into 3 parts: the right side of the meat, left side, and center bone. This cutting method is simple and preserves the flavor and texture of the fish, but takes great skill to do well. 

Important Tips

Chef Yuji stresses that this is not the traditional Japanese method of sanmai oroshi. The traditional method will not use a gyuto and scissor. His method is influenced while working in western kitchens in America. The chef explains that for breaking down fish, it is very important to know the structure of fish to ensure that the butchering can be performed smoothly. You want to make sure you know where the bone starts, then align the knife against the bone. 

Removing the head

  1. Locate where the bone starts by feeling along the spine of the fish
  2. Slice the collar to the bone to where the bone starts, then cut straight down. Only go as deep as you hit the bone, and lighten the pressure as you get towards the belly of the fish. Cut the belly area as thin as you can to avoid damaging the guts underneath. 
  3. Repeat this process on the other side, and let the slices meet at the middle.
  4. Remove the guts
  5. Gently cut the head from the body

Filleting the Meat

What remains after removing the head is the skin, bones, and meat which need to be cut differently. Always make sure that fish’s tail is attached to the body during this process so it helps keep the meat still while making slices into the fish.

  1. Pull your knife gently through the belly, using the bone along the belly as a guide and making sure that the knife is always parallel to the spine.
  2. Continue making gentle cuts through the middle in a pulling motion, and make sure that your knife is sitting on top of the bone. 
  3. Stop when you hit the bottom of the ribs and spine
  4. Rotate the fish so the spine is facing you
  5. Use the spine as a guide and cut only the skin above it
  6. Continue slicing in a pulling motion towards the left side of the spine, and using the top third of the knife.
  7. Stop when you hit the top half of the ribs
  8. Cut through from the bottom of spine in upward pulling motion up to the rib
  9. Use a pair of scissors to cut the ribs
  10.  Repeat on the other side

How to prepare a fillet for sashimi

Sakudoi is the process of preparing a fillet into a saku block (block of boneless, skinless and blood line-less fish meat) ready for sashimi. For saku blocks, the fish meat has to be the right thickness on all sides.

  1. Remove the ribs by flipping the blade upwards
  2. Push the knife gently through rib to separate the rib from the pin bones
  3. Trim the rib
  4. Repeat the process on the other side
  5. Use tweezers to remove the pin bones by pulling in the same direction as the pin bones
  6. Use your knife to split the filet in half
  7. Remove the skin by gliding your knife through the skin by moving the skin side to side

Slicing Sashimi

Chef Yuji explains that if your saku block is thin like the saku block in the video, you can angle your knife. By starting from the heel of the knife, and the slice through the fish in one clean cut.

Chef's Corner