Bonito gets a bad rap. If you take good care of the fish, it’s delicious.
July 4th I fished aboard the Enterprise, 3/4-day boat out of Long Beach Marina. The bonito were wide open for easy limits of 5. I ended up distributing several and only taking 2 home (100% more than I usually do!).
Still, with a small yellowtail and a nice calico bass as well, it ended up being a lot of fish for me to cook and eat for the week. With bonito, eating it while it’s still fresh is important. This recipe was my solution to cooking it fresh, but being able to use it over the course of the week.
On The Boat
Ideally you want to bleed the fish and put it on ice immediately. A lot of the local boats count on a wet burlap sack to preserve it’s integrity. See if you can gain access to the boat fridge/freezer. Also, when it’s time to cut your fish, have them slab it, keeping the skin attached.
One of the complaints about bonito is that it has a mushy texture. That will happen if it sits on deck in the aforementioned burlap sack all day. Mine still looked good, but I figured a citrus based marinade like “achiote” would be just the ticket to firm up the texture of the flesh. This marinade couldn’t be easier. To make it, refer to my Armando’s Achiote Tuna Tacos article. I made the marinade in a large mixing bowl and just put the slabs in as is.
I did the All-American burger thing while the fish was marinating. You don’t want the coals too hot anyway, so the timing works out well. While the burgs were cooking, I filled a small container with mesquite wood chips and soaked them in water. When the burgs were done, the coals were less hot and ready for smoking. I sprinkled the wet mesquite directly on top of the charcoal. I have the standard hibachi grill and like to set it up so the coals are only under half the grill. This allows me to have a cooler side that isn’t in direct heat. Once the grill was ready, I just put the slabs skin side down onto the grill and covered it. Thirty to forty-five minutes later, it was done.
How I Like To Use It
For lunch, Wednesday, I made smoked “tuna fish” sandwiches (right) by mixing the smoked bonito with some mayo, finely chopped red onion & jalapeno, and diced roma tomatoes. Use the same mix and make a tuna melt. I gave some to a co-worker and recommended she chunk it up into a salad. She loved it. I like to mix it up with cream cheese and serve on Ritz crackers. Also, mixing it up into scrambled eggs with tomato and cream cheese is amazing. Use your imagination. Let me know if come up with a new use for it.