How Can I Find Red Snapper, Sea Bream, or Madai Near Me?

April 26 2022 Updated


When you eat at a high-end omakase sushi restaurant in Japan, you will always see white fish called “tai” or “madai,” along with tuna and sea urchin.

In English this fish is translated as Japanese sea bream or Japanese red snapper.

Madai Sushi

Tai is characterized by its vivid red color and served as a special fish for celebratory occasions in Japan.


The custom of praising the red color came from China along with Buddhism and Confucianism. Since red was also considered to keep evil away, tai has been appreciated by Japanese people as the fish that brings good luck.

Tai contains a lot of inosinic acid, a component of umami flavors, and is thus regarded as a symbol of Japanese cuisine. Yet the fish does not seem to be attracting enough attention overseas as an ingredient for Japanese dishes.

This article will provide the chefs outside Japan with the information about dishes with tai and some ideas of the substitutes for madai.
What Is Madai?

Although there are technical differences, more than 200 kinds of fish are called “tai” (“dai”) in Japan, including madai, kidai (yellow sea bream), kurodai (black porgy), hedai (flat bream), ishidai (striped beakfish), kinmedai (red bream), and fuedai (star snapper).

Among them, madai is the most well-known kind in Japan


kidai (yellow sea bream)


kinmedai (red bream)


kurodai (black porgy)

Dishes with Madai

The fish’s top half of the body is bright red, while its white flesh has a mild and clean taste packed with umami.

Madai is usually served as grilled, simmered, sashimi, sushi, tempura, or soup.

Madai Sashimi

Madai Sashimi


Taimeshi Rice


Madai Soup

The color red has been believed to bring good luck in Japan since old times, so the fish is staple for such occasions as weddings.

Habitat of Madai

We can find madai in the waters near Japan, from Hokkaido in the north to Taiwan and China in the south. The fish can grow up to 1 meter in length.

Farm-raised madai is distributed widely and accounts for 80% of the domestic market, while 20% is wild-caught.

Although technically not the same fish as Madai, close relatives can be found all around the world.

How Much Is Madai?

At the Toyosu Market, wild-caught madai is sold for 700 – 1,300 JPY (approx. 6 to 11USD) per kilogram and farm-raised one for 900 – 1,100 JPY (approx. 8 to 9USD).

For your reference, frozen bigeye tuna, which is often used at a common Japanese sushi restaurant, is being sold for 1,000 – 1,100 JPY (approx 8 to 9USD) at the same market. Madai can be purchased for about the same price as the tuna.

Can You Find Madai Nearby?

Rapid Increase in the Export of Madai from Japan

The last decade saw a drastic increase in the export of madai from Japan to Asia and North America. In particular, the exports to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the United States went through a major increase.

In addition, more high-end Japanese restaurants and sushi restaurants are beginning to use their own network to import the fish directly from Japan by air.

What Can Substitute Madai, If It Is Not Available?

Many close relatives or the fishes with similar characteristics are found or farm-raised in different countries, so you should be able to find a substitute for madai where you live.

As mentioned above, snapper and sea bream are examples of close relatives.

If you ask your local Japanese food ingredient supplier, you may be able to find sashimi-grade snapper or sea bream.

Snapper fish

Snapper Fish

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

In some countries, izumidai is sold as a fish close to madai.

This is a kind of farm-raised, freshwater tilapia.

Tilapia fishes

Tilapia fishes

Where Can I Learn about Madai Dishes

If you want to learn how to cook with madai, we recommend that you go to Tokyo Sushi Academy or Japan Culinary Institute

If You Are Looking for Japanese Food Suppliers

We have a list of the Japanese food suppliers for each region in the world, so please use it for your reference from the link below.

Japanese grocery stores and ingredient suppliers in the world

Japanese grocery stores and food suppliers

What would you like to know more?

For those who want to learn Japanese cuisine in Japan

Culinary Schools in Japan

Tokyo Sushi Academy

The first and the most popular sushi school in the world.

Tokyo Sushi Academy
Japan Culinary Institute

Japanese culinary training including sushi, kaiseki, yakitori, wagashi and more.

Yakitori & Chicken Dishes
Miyajima Ramen School

More than 1,000 graduates from over 50 countries.

Miyajima Ramen School
International Ramen School

Ramen study program combined with OJT

International Ramen School