Flak­ing fad? Ja­pan opens Bonito plant in Europe

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Con­car­neau, France

They came all the way from Ja­pan to France with a crazy idea: es­tab­lish­ing a fac­tory for au­then­tic dried bonito flakes, a key in­gre­di­ent in Ja­panese cui­sine that is very rare in Europe.

Dried bonito fish, also known as kat­suobushi, has a dis­tinct fla­vor and is the main in­gre­di­ent in dashi, a tra­di­tional stock which forms the ba­sis of much of Ja­panese cui­sine.

Con­sid­ered es­sen­tial for Ja­panese cook­ing, Euro­pean chefs have been largely un­able to find au­then­tic bonito as it can­not be ex­ported from Ja­pan to Europe.

But now all that is set to change with Ja­panese co­op­er­a­tive Maku­razaki open­ing its own pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in Brit­tany, north­west­ern France, from which it hopes to sup­ply con­nois­seurs across the con­ti­nent.

“It was cru­cial to be pas­sion­ate about this prod­uct and the aim of this project for it to see the light of day,” said Gwe­nael Per­hirin, di­rec­tor of Maku­razaki France.

Maku­razaki, which takes its name from a city in south­ern Ja­pan that is fa­mous for its kat­suobushi in­dus­try, rep­re­sents eight man­u­fac­tur­ers of bonito flakes and other prod­ucts de­rived from fish of the tuna fam­ily, a pack­ag­ing com­pany and a fish­ing co­op­er­a­tive.

Although bonito flakes can be found in spe­cial­ized shops across the Euro­pean Union, mostly com­ing from China, Korea or Viet­nam, they can cost up to 130 eu­ros ($140) per kilo­gram.

“It is not at all the same prod­uct (as the Ja­panese orig­i­nal) in terms of taste and smell,” says Per­hirin.

With the United Na­tions’ cul­tural body UNESCO rec­og­niz­ing Ja­panese cui­sine as part of the coun­try’s in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage, Maku­razaki is hop­ing to make good on the grow­ing wave of in­ter­est in Ja­pan’s culi­nary know-how.

Lo­cated in the sea­side town of Con­car­neau, at the north­ern end of France’s At­lantic coast, the fac­tory, which cov­ers 800 square me­ters, was opened in early Septem­ber.

Maku­razaki has plowed 2 mil­lion eu­ros into the Con­car­neau plant af­ter sign­ing a deal with French tuna firm CFTO, which is also based in Brit­tany.

Un­der the deal, CFTO will sup­ply Maku­razaki France with be­tween three and six tons of bonito per week.

“The qual­ity of our fin­ished prod­uct is much closer to what we pro­duce in Ja­pan,” says At­sushi Kawa­zoe, one of two ex­perts as­sist­ing Maku­razaki France.

“There is still progress to be made but we’re nearly there.”

LUIZ RAMPELOTTO / EUROPANEWSWIRE

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