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Tuesday October 1, 2013 MYT 8:58:00 AM
Tuesday October 1, 2013 MYT 8:58:39 AM
by aki omori
'Salt' bonito tataki. White salt crystals accentuate the crimson fish meat. - The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kurishio bay salt made by evaporating seawater using natural forces.
SINCE the abolition of the monopoly on salt in 1997, various kinds of salts from Japan and abroad are available today. I visited the town of Kuroshio in Kochi Prefecture, a producer of bay salt, which is created over time using the power of the sun and wind.
A quiet, idyllic town of 13,000 people facing the Pacific Ocean, Kuroshio has an active bonito line-fishing population. Along the coast stands a 7m-tall tower. Inside the building, blue nets are hung in the shape of an accordion.
“Using these nets, we increase the concentration of the salt in the seawater from 3% to 18%,” Masaaki Ojima, 56, who produces bay salt at his firm Tosa no Amamiya, said.
Concentration, the most general method of making salt in Japan, involves boiling down seawater or salt water through a special filter.
Bay salt is made by evaporating seawater using such natural forces as the sun and wind.
It takes about a month to make salt naturally from sea water, even in summer. Sea water is pumped up to the top of the tower, and from there the water is sprayed onto nets until the water evaporates.
At Ojima’s tower, 450 nets of 14sqm each are set out, with seawater trickling down them several hundred times.
“When it rains, we stop the operation. Our job all depends on the weather and humidity,” Ojima said, adding that blistering hot days this year helped speed up his job.
Once the salt water becomes concentrated, it is put in a 90sq cm square box called a “crystal box” and left alone until salt crystals form. Ojima stirs inside the box every day while considering the size and taste of each crystal before deciding whether to extract it.
The wet salt is stirred up to be dried until it becomes smooth.
The Tosa Kuroshio Bay Salt brand began when Ojima started research on salt-making in 1981. Ojima’s method has been passed down to three local salt producers. The Saga district is the best place to make salt because there is little drainage into the sea in that area, and the water is clean, Ojima said. The salt from there contains plenty of minerals and has a mild taste.
Despite being made with the same method, the taste of the salt differs depending on the producer.
“Saltbee”, made by four female owners, tastes mild, while the salt of “salt-making meister” Tetsuo Hamada, 64, has a stronger taste.
“Salt has life,” Hamada said. “Its taste and the shape of the crystals change depending on how I look after it.”
Kuroshio’s salt is used in various processed products and cuisines in the town.
Kenichi Takemasa of the Kuroshio chamber of commerce and industry’s Saga branch said: “(To enjoy the taste of the salt), roast fresh bonito with straw. Then sprinkle bay salt on the fish. It’s called ‘Shio-tataki’ (fish that has been seared on the outside, but is still raw on the inside), and it’s delicious.”
Roasted bonito is sliced rather thick and pounded lightly by hand after being seasoned with bay salt. Salt accentuates the taste of the bonito.
Time and care spent on salt boost the taste of the whole dish. – The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network
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Lifestyle, salt, bonito tataki, Tosa Kuroshio Bay Salt
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