Washoku is the Japanese word for Japanese cuisine. This blog will introduce Japanese food, the chefs, dishes, pottery, and Japanese culture. All photos are by Naoko Takagi, contributions from other individuals will be noted.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Lightly Roasted Bonito (Katsuo no Tataki)

Lightly Roasted Bonito (Katsuo no Tataki)

For the Japanese, the words "Katsuo no tataki" conjure images of a breezy early summer and fresh green foliage.
The bonito season in Japan is from early summer to autumn because of the ocean currents around the islands of Japan. During the season, bonitos North from the South, and then return. When they return south, their bodies are fattened because of their time spent in the frigid ocean current. Their really delicious and aromatic fat changes the taste of bonito. Some people prefer the light early summer flavor of bonito and others prefer the fatty bonito. However, bonito are all over the world and we can catch them throughout the year, so we can enjoy their subtle and varied tastes depending on the location and season.

Japanese culture has had a deep and enduring relationship with bonito. Early on, people have offered bonito to the shrines as food for the spirits. Also the people of the Edo era, in Tokyo, competed with others in buying early summer bonito. They even sold their wives and kids to eat them. Still today, bonito flakes are the most important ingredient of Washoku (Japanese cuisine).
Bonito are 20 to 40 inches long. It's a wonder how ancient people caught these fish with their hefty weight and large size presenting a considerable challenge to fisherman with simple techniques.

Katsuo no tataki is famous in the Kouchi prefecture as the representative food, especially since it is served as "Sawachi ryori" (a big one plate meal). The history of Katsuo no tataki is very old, but vary around the country with conflicting claims. Being served katsuo no tataki sawachi ryori is a very heart warming happy feast.
Bonito is very delicate fish, like tuna. They spoil quickly. Usually, when we eat bonito raw, we serve it with condiments (shred ginger, garlic, scallions...etc), as toppings. However, these are no longer just "condiments", they add a a mouth-watering, complex flavor. The best way to smoke this dish is by burning rice straw. Served best with cold sake.






Photoshoot at Hirohisa