Serendipity. That’s the only way to explain it. Last night we met a good friend for dinner and she happened to order some hamachi kama, or yellowtail tuna collar. The “collar” is quite literally the “neck” portion of a fish, or the section just behind the jaw. I am not sure if Filipinos differentiate between the fish jaw and the neck, but tuna panga or jaw is a delicacy that is enjoyed by many, particularly given the abundant supply of tuna landed in the south. Many would refer to these as trimmings (after processing or portioning a fish), but for foodies, this is possibly the best part of the fish!
At any rate, I noticed a premium price on the hamachi kama at last night’s dinner, and wondered just where one might score some good collars. Then as if by divine intervention, we had breakfast with Mrs. MM’s cousin this morning, and she says, out of the blue, “could you use some barramundi collars?” Are you kidding me, is that lucky or what? Sea bass or apahap are delicious fish and I imagined the collars would be interesting to experiment with. These collars must come from bigger 3-4 kilo fish compared to the relatively small frozen sea bass that are farm raised and sold frozen from General Santos fish farms. So mid-afternoon, a package with 5 frozen barramundi collars was dropped off at our home and I promptly decided to cook them for dinner.
Three collars were marinated for 30-40 minutes in a mixture of kikkoman, mirin, a touch of sugar and some salt and pepper. We then grilled these over charcoal and proceeded to singe or burn them just a bit too much. The fins were a bit inedible from the charring, but the meat was otherwise a phenomenal slam dunk. Each collar was surprisingly meaty and the texture of the fish was superb. Definitely a 9/10 experimental result — if we regulate the heat a bit better the next time this would easily rate a 10/10. A little dipping sauce of soy and kalamansi with side dishes of pickled radish and some sautéed bean sprouts and I was a happy camper.
With the remaining two collars, we just seasoned them with salt and pepper and coated them with a mixture of flour and cornstarch and deep-fried them in lard (vegetable oil would work too).
OMG, these were really good as well. The crisp salty skin and exposed parts yielded to the most amazingly tender and juicy white meat. The fins were so crisp, you could eat them all like potato chips! I definitely understand the somewhat cultish foodie obsession for fish “necks”…
So now the challenge is to get a steady supply of these marvelous morsels — if I manage that mini-miracle, I promise to have them as a special at our restaurants sometime soon. :)