Flak­ing fad? Ja­pan opens Bonito plant in France

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

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 umami flavour 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, sit­ting in the fac­tory’s rest area, slip­pers on his feet as Ja­panese tra­di­tion dic­tates.

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.

Very strict reg­u­la­tions

Lo­cated in the sea­side town of Concarneau, at the north­ern end of France’s At­lantic coast, the fac­tory, which cov­ers an area of 800 square me­ters (8,600 square feet), was opened in early Septem­ber. De­spite the fan­fare, it is not the first kat­suobushi pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in Europe-an­other fac­tory was set up last year in Vigo, a city on Spain’s north­west­ern At­lantic coast.

Maku­razaki has ploughed two mil­lion eu­ros into the Concarneau plant af­ter sign­ing a deal with French tuna firm CFTO (Com­pag­nie Fran­caise du Thon Oceanique) which is also based in Brit­tany. Un­der the deal, CFTO will sup­ply Maku­razaki France with be­tween three and six tons of bonito, also known as skip­jack tuna, per week.

For now, the plant can turn a ton of fish into 200 kilo­grams of kat­suobushi, but the man­age­ment is hop­ing to see vol­umes in­crease in the com­ing years. CFTO, which is also based in Concarneau, runs a fleet of 14 ves­sels in the At­lantic and In­dian oceans, where it catches the fish ac­cord­ing to very strict reg­u­la­tions. “We worked very hard to get this spec­i­fi­ca­tion be­cause we have to be very care­ful about its fat con­tent,” says Per­hirin.

Fat con­tent de­pends on both the avail­able food and the tem­per­a­ture of the water, with those swim­ming at a greater depth hav­ing a higher pro­por­tion of fat as in­su­la­tion from the cold. —AFP

CONCARNEAU, France: This file photo taken on Oc­to­ber 21, 2016 shows Dried bonito flakes pic­tured at the Maku­razaki France kat­suobushi firm. —AFP

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