Katsuo no Tataki (Seared Bonito): Kochi’s Soul Food
When in Kochi seared bonito (katsuo no tataki ) needs to be on your list of foods to try. This beloved soul food consists of generous, thick slices of bonito sashimi that have been perfectly seared around the edges. Discover all the tasty ways to savor this and other bonito-based dishes in Kochi, and find out where you can experience the dramatic searing process for yourself!
Bonito: The Food of Kochi
Kochi Prefecture has the highest level of bonito consumption in Japan, quite a feat for such a seafood-loving country. Bonito fishing is both an important tradition and part of the local economy.
The fish are still caught using the traditional ipponzuri (fishing with a pole) method that has been preserved for nearly 400 years. Fishermen entice a shoal of bonito into one area, and then catch them one by one using a pole, rather than just scooping them up using nets. While this method is much more labor intensive (as they can weigh up to 5 kilos each), it avoids damaging the bonito and accidently getting other fish caught in the nets. Bonito can be eaten all year round, however the fish is tastiest during the early summer and late fall.
How to Eat Katsuo no Tataki
Ask anyone in Kochi, and they will tell you that fire-seared bonito is the very best way to eat this meaty fish. While you can find it around Japan, the katsuo no tataki in Kochi is recognized as the best in the country.
The secret to the irresistible aroma lies in the unusual searing method. The thick fillets of bonito are placed on a hand-held grill that closely resembles a pitchfork and thrust into a strong fire fed by the straw of rice plants. This draws out the aroma and flavor of the fish by searing the surface and adding the smokiness of the rice straw, while the inside is rare and melts in your mouth. This gives it a flavor that is totally different from other sashimi.
Unlike regular sashimi, which is dipped in soy sauce, in Kochi katsuo no tataki , is served with ponzu , a citrus-based sauce that often includes local yuzu , and sprinkled with a dusting of salt. This makes the flavor of the bonito stand out even further. The condiments used in Kochi are also unique and include sliced raw garlic, ginger, and onions. Put a little of each condiment on top of your slice of seared bonito for a perfect mouthful.
Katsuo no tataki is available in restaurants across the prefecture, and you can see chefs searing it over high flames at Hirome Market in Kochi City.
More Kochi-Style Bonito Cuisine
In addition to seared bonito, there are many other only-in-Kochi dishes made with this local favorite.
Tosa-maki : This is makizushi (sushi roll) filled with seared bonito, raw garlic and perilla leaves. This dish is so popular that it is available both at restaurants and in the deli section of supermarkets, perfect for a quick lunch on the go!
Harambo : Made with the belly of fatty bonito which is gently broiled with salt. It is a valuable gem of a dish, as only one piece can be taken from each bonito.
Bonito sashimi: Bonito loses its freshness quickly, so the best place to try it as sashimi is as close as possible to where it was caught. In Kochi you will get the freshest catch, and often it will be served with the silver skin still attached.
Chichiko : This is bonito heart. The Kochi way to eat it is stewed in a salty-sweet ginger and soy sauce, or grilled with salt.
Shuto : One for adventurous foodies, this paste is made from the salted and fermented internal organs of bonito. You will see people ordering it as something to nibble with sake, and this delicacy is also sold at supermarkets, should you develop a taste for it!
Sear Your Own Katsuo no Tataki
Experience handling the special grills and searing your own fillet of bonito over a roaring straw-fueled fire… and of course eating the delightfully smoky, luscious sashimi afterwards! There are two places in Kochi that welcome visitors who want to try their hand at making the prefecture’s most iconic dish.
Katsuobune Tosa Tataki Dojo
This restaurant/dojo only has one thing on the menu: seared bonito you have grilled yourself! Take a piece of bonito thrust on a skewer and plunge it into the straw-fueled fire. A member of staff will be on hand to make sure it is done to perfection and will slice it up for you. Then, just add your preferred condiments and dig in. No need for reservations at this restaurant conveniently located just 10 minutes by car from the popular sightseeing area of Katsurahama Beach.
Address: 201-2 Niida, Kochi City
Hours: 10:30am to 3:00pm (closes when their stock of bonito runs out)
Price: 1,300 yen for a single dish of self-seared bonito and 1,600 yen for a set meal
There are signs that show the procedures in English and Chinese https://visitkochijapan.com/en/activities/10430
Nakatosa is one of the fishing towns where ipponzuri (fishing with a pole) method of catching bonito is practiced. There are many restaurants where you can order exceptionally fresh bonito, including Kuroshio Kobo, which stands on a promontory overlooking the ocean. You can try searing bonito over a straw-fueled fire here from April to October, before tucking in at a table with great views of the sea. We also recommend trying out the hot spring at Kuroshio Honjin, a ryokan inn on the premises, after you have taken part in this experience.
Address: 8009-11 Kure, Nakatosa Town,Takaoka Gun
Hours: 10:30am to 2:00pm from April to October (reservations required)
Holidays: Second Thursday of every month
Price: 800 yen per group in addition to the bonito market price https://visitkochijapan.com/en/activities/10434