Salt-Cured Bonito Sashimi
Learn how to naturally preserve bonito through salt curing and transform it into a delightful sashimi-style dish. This article provides insights into cooking techniques, the use of Japanese knives, and a visit to the Union Square farmers market for fresh ingredients.
Chef Atsushi Nakahigashi explained how to naturally preserve bonito by salt curing. This technique, by the way, works for bonito, mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and herring. (You can find these fish already filleted, of course)
The technique: Liberally salt the bonito filet with Japanese sea salt. Really coat both sides, the top, bottom, everywhere -- give it a thick layer of salt. Now, carefully, tightly wrap the filet in plastic film so there are no air pockets, and no way for air to get in. Carefully flatten one side to remove any air bubbles, then do the same thing for the other side (Atsushi uses a specialized plastic wrap to accomplish this in Japan, interestingly enough). Place the wrapped fish in a plastic zip-lock bag. Stick in the fridge for three to four days.
When we were ready to eat, we unwrapped the filet and sliced it, sashimi-style. The transformation was remarkable: Bonito has soft, watery flesh but now it was taut and dense, with a little pink in the center. The aroma that reminded me of salted herring but the flavor was much more delicate and subtle. We ate with scallions, thinly sliced shin tama negi -- fresh onions we picked up at the farmers market -- and soy sauce and wasabi. Absolutely lovely.