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oven baked bonito (C4T)

April 13, 2010

(…or how I made peace with a fish.)

I get nervous about fish.

They don’t seem to like me.

Perhaps someone told them about the time I managed to kill ten goldfish in a single year. I didn’t mean to – they’d be swimming around happily one day, and then two weeks later…

(Interestingly, when I handed over the fish-rearing-reigns to my father, the pair we had at the time lived for ten years. Until I was left to watch them for two weeks.)

And perhaps, just maybe, my fish-rearing-skills have left me slightly damaged. Unable to cook much more than a fillet of salmon (sear skin side down, wait… wait… flip, sear, serve) or instant fish fingers (roll onto oven tray, bake, eat soggy fish fingers because-I-suck-at-instant-food).

Until now.

I’d not eaten fresh bonito until I landed in a funky underground tavern, somewhere in Kyoto. The dried flakes that squirm as if they are alive atop a yakisoba, yes – but the fish itself? Never.

It was on the menu as a special. “Bonito Tataki”.

It was firm. And fishy. And almost meaty. It was slippery without being slimy, tender without being insubstantial. A fish for meat eaters, and a fishy one at that.

And, in amongst the haze of plum wine, frozen extremities and overconsumption, I decided that it was good. And oh! How good it was.

Luckily for me (and also for the VTB, who is a fish-fan if ever I saw one), bonito goes for about $7.00/kg back in old Sydney town, and luckily for me (and with thanks to said VTB for sourcing it) I found myself in the possession of one such specimen just in time for dinner (and a less-than-half-hour-to-my-tummy dinner at that. Hurrah!)

oven baked bonito
 
Things you never knew about bonito:
(1) It's part of the mackerel family, without being overpoweringly fishy
(2) It has the texture of swordfish (ie meaty)
(3) because of it's oiliness (see point 1) it doesn't dry out very easily (ie you won't overcook it unless you leave it there for days. I exaggerate. But only slightly).
Ingredients
  • 1x bonito (about 700g)
  • 3x chat potatoes
  • 1x lemon
  • 3x red chillies
  • 3x cloves of garlic
  • 3tbsp olive oil
How to make it
  1. Step by step instructon with images below

How to do it:

1. Buy your bonito and ask your friendly fishmonger to clean it out for you. The bonito has guts, oh-yes-it-does, and these are more happily dealt with by someone who can hose their floor down at the end of the day than they are by you.

2. When you get home, rinse your bonito in some water, making sure all the red blood-clotty-gunk is removed from the cavity. (tip: wiggle its jaw around and make it say things like “Something smells awfully fishy around here… is it you?”)

3. Par-boil your potatoes (you want them mostly cooked, but still retaining a slight crunch. Slice them into rounds.

4. More chopping! Slice half the lemon into thin slices and juice the rest of it (I sliced the middle of it into slices and juiced the ends). Slice up your garlic cloves. And while you’re at it, slice your chillis into halves (lengthwise). If you aren’t a heat-fiend, you may want to remove the seeds. I did not. My mouth, it was numb.

5. Make three slits in each side of your bonito and stuff the garlic in. Stuff the lemon and the chilli into the cavity.

6. Layer the potatoes and any remaining slices of lemon on a baking-paper-lined baking dish so they sit along the middle. Slat and pepper please. Plonk the fish on top.

7. Mix up the olive oil & lemon juice and pour the lot all over the fish and the potatoes and the fish again. Now cover your baking dish with foil.

8. Bake your bonito for 20minutes at 200C. Before turning your oven off, check that the eyes are white and opaque to ensure it’s cooked. If not, stick it in for another 5 minutes, but you shouldn’t have to.

9. Tuck in! We didn’t use plates (and I didn’t use cutlery, though the VTB was far too proper to follow suit). Delish!


  • #1
    April 13th, 2010

    Fish don’t like me. Most living things don’t.

    Glad you beat the fear, though.

  • #2
    April 13th, 2010

    I saw bonito at the fish markets for the first time recently. I had no idea what they looked like. This is a good looking dish and if as foolproof as you promise might lure me into oven baking fish.

  • #3
    April 14th, 2010

    I’ve never tried baking a bonito before, although I’ve had much luck with rainbow trout before. I like the idea of using chilli too – I thought it was carrot which surprised me, and then, ah, yes, chilli indeed 🙂

  • #4
    April 14th, 2010

    I cook salmon in the oven all the time, but haven’t dried bonito. Must try now, I bet it’s delish!

  • #5
    April 17th, 2010

    If it’s any consolation, I’ve never had much luck with goldfish either. They’re deceptively simple looking pets, in my opinion ;P

    Love your oven baked bonito. It’s one of my fav fish to eat, both raw and cooked 🙂

  • #6
    April 18th, 2010

    The bugged-out eye really freaks me out, so might need to find another measure of doneness if I ever get around to baking bonito.

    The other part of the baked fish looks real nice though 🙂

  • #7
    April 19th, 2010

    The idea of cooking a whole baked animal scares me. I’m to use to pre-cuts. However you make it look easy and sound so delicious.

  • #8
    April 19th, 2010

    @The Ninja: Me included. Heh!

    @Mark: It’s a great fish to start with (and cheap too. Cheap!)

    @Helen: Ahh – but so many bones in trout? I am lazy, which also explains why it took me so long to bake a fish.

    @Maria: It’s a less oily fish than salmon, and white meat instead of pink, so will taste quite different. Let me know what you think!

    @Y: Oh I have so much *heart* for bonito. Am itching to get back to the markets to get me some more 🙂

    @Simon: If the fish pulls away from the bone easily it’s done too. So you can go ahead and cover it’s head with foil and avoid bug-eyed-ness.

    @Amy: I can definitely understand that. I’ve found cooking on the bone to be strangely satisfying though…

  • #9
    April 21st, 2010

    I agree w Helen I’ve seen it smoked, seared, cured but never baked oddly enough – sounds/looks fresh and tasty! mmm lemony chilliness….

  • #10
    April 21st, 2010

    I love bonito but I have never had it baked. Looks yummy. The first thing I noticed was the eyes ehehe. My dad would jump at the chance to eat those. ewww

  • #11
    April 22nd, 2010

    Good recipe. I hate fish too. Something fishy about it all lol Sounds delish and will try it out soon x

  • #12
    kevin
    March 16th, 2011

    wow it looks good. I go out deepsea fishing and catch bunch of these bonitos but never kept them. I always gave them away to people but next time i go out fishing i’m gonna keep few of these and try bakin it 🙂

Shez