The portion of the fish just caudal to the gills (i.e. just behind–toward the tail from the gills) of a medium to large size fish is called “Kama*” かま in Japanese or “collar” in English. This portion is often discarded by Western fish mongers but it can be one of the best parts of the fish to eat especially in the case of yellowtail or “hamachi” collar ハマチのカマ which is probably the most popular. We tried “Tuna” collar in Japan some time ago. It was listed as “whale” collar 鯨のカマ on the menu as a reference to its size not the species of fish from which it came. It was gigantic! It felt like we were served the Japanese equivalent of a Thanksgiving turkey large enough to feed a family of 4 with all the leftovers. We think, however, that Hamachi is much better. We often order hamachi kama atwhen it is available.
The other day, we happened to find frozen hamachi collar in our Japanese grocery store and bought one without hesitation. This was a large one. I just salted it and grilled it over a charcoal fire in the Weber despite the risk of mosquitos.
*”Kama” in Japanese means “sickle” or “sythe” obviously derived from the shape of this particular part of the fish (see the bottom picture).
I served this with the usual grated daikon 大根おろし. Since I did not have pickled young ginger or “hajikami ginger” はじかみ生姜 which is a standard accompaniment for grilled fish in Japan, I put a small mound of “gari” がりpickled ginger.
The picture just above is after the kama has been thawed and salted and is ready to go. Since I did not want to tend the fish too often at the grill which increases my chance of becoming dinner for mosquitos while I prepare my own dinner, I set up my Weber grill for 1/2 direct heat and 1/2 indirect heat. I first placed the hamachi kama skin side down over the direct heat for five minutes until the skin developed several nice char marks. I then turned it over still on the direct fire and left it to grill for another 5 minutes. I then moved the fish to the indirect heat area and continued cooking for another 5 minutes.
This was perfectly done. It was a rather meaty, good sized hamachi kama with a good amount of nice succulent meat. It served as a perfect appetizer for two. As usual, my wife skillfully removed the meat and skin for the two of us. We had our usual cold sake “Mu” with this.
Since we generally don’t barbeque over a charcoal fire in the summer once the mosquitoes have emerged, this barbeque was a somewhat rare occasion. But, is there any better way to cook yellow tail kama for peak enjoyment? When it comes to grilled yellow tail kama, the risk of being “eaten alive” by the mosquitoes is worth it. Nonetheless we were also practical and to make good use of the fire we also grilled a butterflied leg of lamb for the entrée.