Our friend Tomoko called the other day and said “I’m bringing over bonito!” The only bonito I had ever heard of was the dried, shaved stuff that goes into dashi or as a garnish on certain Japanese dishes. I wasn’t sure why she would bring dried fish flakes over. Luckily, she arrived with some beautiful sashimi-grade tuna and a bag full of Japanese aromatics. Some quick Googling revealed that bonito is a smaller fish of the tuna family that’s just coming into peak season now in Japan.
The fish is buttery and cut into substantial pieces, not as thin as sashimi. The toppings add a nice crunchy contrast to the tuna, and they’re fresh and aromatic. The ponzu is pure umami with a hint of citrus. A quick dip in soy sauce spiked with spicy freshly grated ginger and pungent raw garlic adds an extra salty kick. The combination of these flavors and textures is an absolute party in your mouth!
This is Tomoko’s family’s recipe; she told us that it’s a traditional Japanese dish, one that’s easy to make at home. I looked online a little bit to see how other people make it, and it appears that there are probably as many versions of this dish as there are families in Japan. Some recipes add raw white onions, or lemon juice, or they grate the ginger right onto the fish. Some omit the ice bath. I really loved the recipe that Tomoko made for us, so I didn’t change anything. But the numerous different versions out there should encourage you to try the dish even if you can’t find all of the ingredients. Let me know if you try and what variations you had to make based on your geographic location!
I make an effort to keep the ingredients my recipes easy for most of our readers to find, despite living in Japan and having access to completely different ingredients. This one might be an exception, though. Some of these ingredients won’t be easily accessible to everyone, but if you can find them then this dish is absolutely worth it. Sorry, but I just had to share this delicious recipe with you guys! I’ve been pretty much obsessing over it ever since Tomoko made it for us.
One year ago: Japanese Festival Food! So excited that festival season is back. Isn’t the summer fun? Now if only it weren’t so HOT and humid in Tokyo.
- 8 oz sashimi-grade bonito fillet(s)
- 2 myoga flower buds (can substitute a 1-inch section of fresh ginger, minced)
- 4 scallions
- 3 shiso, aka perilla leaves (I honestly can't think of a good substitute if you can't find shiso, it's so unique)
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 tablespoons ponzu
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon minced or grated ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon minced or grated garlic
- Prepare an ice water bath in a pan deep enough to cover the tuna with water. But don't put the tuna in it yet!
- Rinse the tuna and pat it dry with a paper towel. If you have a kitchen blowtorch, use it to lightly brown the outside of the fillet. If you don't have a blowtorch, heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Sear the tuna for about 10 seconds per side, until lightly browned. Put the tuna in the ice bath to stop the fish from cooking. You can leave the tuna in the ice bath for up to 1 hour.
- While the tuna is chilling, prepare the aromatics. Trim the stem off the myoga flowers and thinly slice. Trim the roots off the scallions and thinly slice the white and light green parts. Trim the stem off the shisho leaves and thinly slice. Slice the garlic clove as thinly as possible.
- Remove the tuna from the ice bath and pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the tuna into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange on a plate. Top with the aromatics and pour the ponzu over the dish.
- Combine the soy sauce, ginger and garlic to create a dipping sauce. Serve in a small dish alongside the fish.
- To eat, top a piece of fish with some of the aromatics and dip into the soy sauce mixture.