Tosa Province, present-day Kochi Prefecture, is the place that produced many dignitaries including former prime ministers. In such a place from which many respectable figures hailed, bonitos have been widely eaten as one of the major local dishes.
The best season of bonitos comes twice a year. In spring, bonitos ride the Kuroshio Current northward on the Pacific side. In fall, bonitos return southward as the northern seawater temperature decreases. Bonitos landed in spring are called “first bonitos” and bonitos landed in fall are called “returned bonitos.”
Especially returned bonitos are said to be delicious compared to first bonitos, because they are larger in size and have plenty of fat.
The best way to eat bonitos is tataki (seared bonito), the local dish representing Kochi Prefecture. Best season to eat bonitos in Kochi Prefecture starts from September and continues until November.
In Kochi City, there is a well-established bonito restaurant that always has queues of people. This time, we introduce the restaurant “Myojinmaru” and its specialty “salted bonito tataki.”
・Popular restaurant in Hirome-ichiba Market
In the middle of Kochi City, there is a food market called Hirome-ichiba. In this market, not only tourists but also locals come to buy ingredients. One of the popular restaurants in the premises of Hirome-ichiba Market is Myojinmaru. During a long holiday season, it is inevitable to wait more than 2 hours in a queue to get seated.
・Bonito tataki must be seared over straw fire
According to people in Kochi Prefecture, bonito tataki must be seared over straw fire. It is obvious that straw fire makes the taste of bonitos dramatically delicious in comparison to bonitos seared over a gas stove.
Why does straw fire make ingredients so delicious? The reason is closely related to Japanese four distinct seasons. The season of returned bonitos is also the season of rice harvest. Dry straw has been produced as an agricultural by-product after rice was threshed. It creates a strong fire that makes a crisp texture on surface and a soft texture inside of bonitos. The smoky flavor also removes fish smell.
・Eat freshest bonito tataki with nothing but salt
For ocean-fresh returned bonito, putting salt on tataki is the recommended way of eating. Salted tataki is unfamiliar serving idea for people from other prefectures, but it is most popular menu in Myojinmaru. Salt brings out the freshness and natural flavor of bonito. You can also try bonito tataki with the refreshing taste of the dipping sauce made of locally produced Japanese citron vinegar.
If you still have a room, try salted bonito sushi. The simple taste of vinegared rice matches well with rich bonito tataki.
Enjoy the flavor of salted returned bonito in season. It is a local specialty that has been loved by people for a long time, and could be eaten only in Kochi Prefecture.
Name: 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