If you’re a coastal sport fisherman (or have friends who are) and like to barbecue in the summer (or have friends who do), this is the dish for you (and your friends!). In America, bonito is caught off Long Island and along the California coast from May through July. Most of the commercial catch is bought up by local Japanese restaurants, so you may need to find a fishing companion or convince your fish store to special-order it for you. If you can’t get bonito, try the same tataki preparation with large Spanish mackerel, yellowtail, small bluefin tuna, or Hawaiian mahi mahi (sometimes called dolphin fish).
To make tataki, or “pounded,” bonito, the fresh fish is filleted, keeping the silvery skin intact. The fillets are then skewered and seared over intense heat to tenderize the skins while keeping the flesh rare and moist. A quick plunge in ice water stops the cooking process while forcing any oils or fats to solidify, facilitating their removal. The lean, rare fish fillets are then patted dry and marinated in a heady combination of soy, ginger, scallions, and garlic before being sliced and served slightly chilled. It is the garlic, scallions, and ginger that are “pounded”—minced, actually—and give the unusual name to this dish.
© 1988 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.