For most people who are trying to make Japanese food at home, they would probably follow the recipe down to a T. If they are planning to make katsuobushi, traditional bonito fish dish in Japan that requires boiling, curing, smoking and fermenting, making their own version might be out of the equation.
This is not the case with Brandon Gray, the culinary director for Cape Seafood and Provisions by Michael Cimarusti which is located in Los Angeles. Gray used to be a renaissance chef but his career took a turn and he is now a fishmonger. He admitted that while many people might be intimidated in making their own katsuobushi because of the processes involved, he is not in any way afraid to try because these kinds of dishes are what challenges him the most.
He revealed that he has a passion for making his own version of everything and he prefers to do it from scratch. He is known to make in-house stuffs that are soon included in Cape’s menu. After hearing this, he eventually became one of the only two chefs based in LA that are making bonito where everyone else is serving umami dishes. The other chef is N/Naka’s Niki Nakayama.
Gray shared that if he discovers something which he enjoyed, it encourages him to learn more about it especially with a dish like dashi that is quite complicated. When cooking, he uses only the freshest fish and he starts by filleting the fish before boiling for a few hours with shaved bonito. After boiling, a thick paste of ground bonito is used to cover the fish. The fish must then be smoked daily for about four hours and it should be done in a month without fail. After this, the fish will be half its original weight and the texture is stiff and super dry. You can ferment it in order to have additional flavours but it can be used as it is. It is either shaved thinly or used to flavour pureed soups. Look for a Japanese restaurant in Sukhumvit that serves this dish in order to try its umami-filled glory.