The word bonito would, for most, evoke the common visual of little flakes dancing atop your meal. However, there are so many other delicious ways to prepare bonito fish, for example the Myojinmaru Bonito Tataki.
Kochi Prefecture are well known for their bonito. In spring, they ride the Kuroshio Current northward on the Pacific side. The bonito landed at this point are called ‘first bonito’. Then in autumn, they return southward as the northern seawater temperature decreases. The fish caught at this time are ‘returned bonito’. It is common opinion that returned bonito are more delicious due to their larger size and extra fat. Thus, the best time to eat them is in Autumn (between September and November).
Bonito is a serious business in Kochi and the locals like to eat it seared (katsuo no tataki). As long as it’s cooked over straw fire, that is. The smoky flavours of the burnt straw lend the dish a complex taste which can’t be matched by gas-stove-cooked tataki.
This is a cooking method which goes back generations. As is often the case, it is linked to the Japanese seasons. Autumn is the time for returned bonitos as well as rice harvest so a pairing between the two was inevitable. The dry straw gathered as rice harvest byproduct became used for cooking the bonito. When the flames lick at the bonito, the surface becomes crisp, the center remains soft and the smoke gives flavour. Perfection.
Myojinmaru at Hirome-ichiba Market
In the middle of Kochi City, the Hirome-ichiba food market is a hub of activity. Locals and tourists alike come here to buy fresh, local produce. The various restaurants in the market then expertly transform those ingredients into delicious dishes.
One of the most popular restaurants in the Hirome-ichiba Market is Myojinmaru. Masters of the salted bonito tataki, you may wait up to two hours for a seat during a holiday season. It’s simply that good.
Myojinmaru Bonito Tataki
All prefectures have their own way of enjoying a dish. Here, the only way to enjoy bonito tataki is with salt. This simple addition highlights the freshness and natural flavour of the fish. Though if you wanted a sauce, that’s ok, too. The dipping sauce made from locally made citron vinegar is also delicious.
Myojinmaru also serve up some quality salted bonito sushi. The chefs place slices of bonito tataki atop simple vinegared rice for a wonderfully balanced mouthful.
In conclusion, everyone should enjoy this delicious bonito! Head to the coast and do as the locals do; enjoy fresh, locally caught bonito seared over fire and sprinkled with salt. Just be sure to bring a book for the queue!
Myojinmaru: Hirome-ichiba Market
Address: 2-3-1 Obiyamachi, Kochi-shi, Kochi
Open: Weekdays, Saturdays, national holidays: 11:00–21:00 / Sundays: 10:00–20:00
Post by Japan Journeys.