Bonito – oily fish worthy of opulent events

Holiday menus always start with irresistible fish specialities. Adriatic tuna is the main favourite, but the bonito is also deemed the best catch in the fishing and gourmet community of small Dalmatian towns.

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Year after year we do our very best to outdo ourselves and impress everybody with new culinary ideas and originality during the holidays, but the appeal of Christmas and New Year menus lies in the simplicity of ingredients that surround us. If, in addition to that, you have the best fish possible, your guests are bound to enthralled.

Bonito are an oily fish which is no worse than tuna qualitywise and it’s very common in the Adriatic. While considered a culinary delicacy in the Far East, it’s still waiting to be fully affirmed in Croatia. It belongs to the Scombridae family. They have a prolonged compressed body with a long conical head and large mouth.

Being a predatory fish, it feeds on small oily fish such as anchovies, sardines, etc. When compared with tuna, they have a somewhat paler meat and they can weigh up to 9 kg, but specimens most commonly found at markets weigh 1 kg up to 1.5 kg. Given the fact that bonito fishing season is underway, we’re sure you’re find them in all better fish markets.

Since bonito is an Adriatic fish, we suggest you stockpile Mediterranean ingredients and herbs during its preparation and you focus on a simple recipe in order to preserve its delicious and nutritious characteristics. When it comes to cleaning, bonito is not a demanding fish so you won’t lose your nerved at the very beginning. You can get truly creative when preparing bonito meat and make classic steaks, broths, fish soups, carpaccio or tartare. While preparing the steak, it’s imperative to beat in the mind that bonito meat is drier then tuna. Having said that, it’s advised to marinate it or rub olive oil into it so that it stays juicy.

We’re sure you’ll be blown away by what our restaurants have to offer during winter so you maybe it would be wise to consider taking a Christmas gourmet trip to the Adriatic. Located at the very centre of Split restaurant Mazzgoon is definitely at the forefront of the lively restaurant scene. This persistent restaurant hasn’t stopped surprising its guests with new and interesting specialties in which they’re don’t shy away from trying out classic Mediterranean specialties with international cuisine. In doing so their only goal is to serve fresh local ingredients. Since they get a kick out of coming up with new recipes using freshly caught fish, this winter they’ve opted for a completely new delicacy, namely, bonito sausage. Owner Antonijo Vrsalović told us how they make the fine smoked bonito sausage:

“First you have to finely chop the bonito meat and it’s best to do it with your hands. It’s best to slice or process the meat as if preparing a carpaccio. Once the meat is chopped, it’s marinated in olive oil, salt, pepper, onion and ginger. It’s stirred until all the flavours merge. The mixture is then placed in intestine to become sausage-shaped. The sausages are then thermally processed in a charcoal ceramic grill where they’re smoked at 100 degrees. When our guest order a sausage, we put it in a convection oven where it’s additionally steamed.”

Family restaurant Rivica is located on the island of Krk in the small coastal town of Njivice. Restaurant owner Dražen Lesica and his wife Nikolina are always offering fresh catch on their menu. Since bonito season is in full swing, it can be said that it’s the main fish featured on the menu:

“Bonito used to be more appreciated by our grandparents. Bonito is an exceptionally gentle fish with pronounced organoleptic aspects. It’s easy to clean or make fillets thereby giving you plenty of preparation options. At our restaurant we prepare carpaccio with completely fresh cleaned fish. It’s marinated only in lemon, fleur de sal, olive oil and chive. Bonito fillets are prepared using the sous vide technique. We use a bit of salt and olive oil to prepare the marinades. The sous vide preparation takes only 12 to 15 minutes at 45 degrees. Once the steak is done, we serve it on baby spinach, chard or collard greens purée depending on the season. Aside from the steak, we also specialise in bonito soup which is prepared in simple fish stock. The stock is made from whitefish and a bit later on we add bonito. The bonito is cooked just for a short while so that the chunks remain in the soup.”

They also let us in on the renowned tartare recipe. But this one in made from bonito. Tomislav Rudan, owner of the famous Hvar restaurant Giaxa, let us in on their restaurant’s secret. This go-to destination of incorrigible foodies has been recognised by the French guide Gault Millau. In addition to top-notch food and wine, the restaurant also gives you a glimpse of Hvar’s history. Giaxa is located in the palace of the noble family Jakša.

“Bonito tartare is prepared only when fresh fish is available. We add a bit of salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, finely chopped celery stalk and orange chunks to the tartare. Tartare is served on toasted bread and butter.”, Tomislav Rudan shared with us.