Most Singaporeans are familiar with popular Japanese cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hokkaido. Have you heard anyone venturing out of the usual to alternative experiences like Kochi? Kochi Prefecture is blessed with beautiful and abundant nature like the gorgeous coastline of Kuroshio Current, crystal clear Shimanto River and beautiful deep green forests. Join us as we explore the unique dine & wine experience Kochi has to offer while getting to know its generous, wise and strong-willed residents!
1. Sear Your Own Bonito
While you are at Kochi, Bonito (aka katsuo) is a delicacy you must not miss! A staple part of Kochi food culture, Bonito is a migratory fish that belongs to the Scombridae family and are revered as the “Prefectural Fish” by the Kochi people. Bonito migrate close to Japan in spring and autumn and are called Hatsugatsuo, Spring bonito, and Modorigatsuo, Autumn bonito, based on the season. Spring bonito have less fat, so they have a more refreshing taste and firmer flesh. On the other hand, autumn bonito are caught before spawning, so they have more fat and a richer flavor.
Seared bonito, or “katsuo no tataki” is the most famous way of cooking and eating bonito. Freshly sliced bonito is placed on skewers, the skin is seared over a straw or similar fire and then cooled with ice. There are differing opinions on why it is seared, but many think that searing softens the tough skin and eliminates the smell, making it easier to eat. It is common practice to eat the sliced meat with sauce and garnishes such as garlic and onion, but even in Kochi, this varies greatly by area.
The majority of areas use ponzu sauce, but some use a mixture of boiled soy sauce and sugar, and in the western areas the custom is to soak it in a salty sauce or ponzu before eating. Recently it has become popular in central areas of Kochi Prefecture to salt the seared bonito and eat it with garlic and wasabi or to use yuzu vinegar. Seared bonito is food for the soul that represents Kochi Prefecture and gives you a taste of the seasons and local cooking.
2. Appreciate Locally Produced Sake
Sake (Japanese rice wine) brewed in Kochi Prefecture is light, dry and famed for its smoothness. There are many breweries in the prefecture and they hold great pride towards using the optimal raw material including water, rice, rice malt and yeast as well as the best brewing techniques sake that has been handed down from generation to generation. You will be surprised to know that many even use unique bottles for their sake products.
At Kochi, it is no fun just drinking without a game. The locals love to host drinking party or banquet with a game called “Bekuhai” which one can only find in Kochi. “Bekuhai” is a unique sake cup that is not stable on its own and has a hole in it. Players need to roll a dice-like object with images of strange-shaped cups and drink sake using sake cups suggested by the dice result. One can only put the sake cup down on the table when it is emptied.
3. Savour A Bowl Of Kinme-Don
Kinmedai (aka alfonsino) grow in the deep waters off Muroto coast and is best known for their splendid red colour. These fishes are at their best in winter when they put on the most fat. A popular way to savour these fresh fatty fish is by topping them over a simple bowl of rice. Called “kinme-don”, the bowl of rice is usually generously stacked with sashimi (sliced raw fishes) and teriyaki (broiled with soy sauce) of Kinmedai together with sashimi of other local fishes in season. We recommend that you splash some kinmedai soup stock to your don after eating half of it to make it even tastier!
We hope you enjoyed our simple introduction to the fine cuisine and sake experience at Kochi Prefecture Japan. If you are planning a visit or would like to find out more, please go visitkochijapan.com for more information.