Basashi is raw horse meat cut into slices–“horse sashimi”, and a delicacy consumed in some parts of Japan. The most famous place to experience basashi is Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu, southern Japan.

You can order a plateful of the stuff in Japanese pubs (izakaya), and it’s said to go incredibly well with nihonshu, but our intrepid RocketNews24 reporter Mami Kuroi couldn’t find any horse meat in Tokyo supermarkets to slice up to make her own basashi to try at home. Eventually, she happened to be visiting Komoro City in Nagano Prefecture and stumbled on a butcher who stocked it. There was even a poster outside proclaiming that the shop sold the “best-quality basashi“! Seizing this once-in-a-lifetime chance for home-made horse sashimi, she bought some, sampled it and wrote about her horsy adventure for us to enjoy. Of course, it was totally raw!

・The three different types of horse meat

In the shop, three different cuts of horse meat were on display. According to the shopkeeper, horse meat is generally divided into categories of “very fatty”, “lean”, and something in-between the two extremes (the price is highest for high fat content). The meat looked like cuts of deep-red, fatty tuna. Written on the shelf were the words: “Inspected, OK for sashimi”. Yessss!

・Expiry date: one week!

Mami couldn’t decide which cut to buy, but reasoning that the best way was to choose the path of moderation, she chose the in-between cuts of meat with a nice mix of fat and lean. Wrapping it up, the butcher seemed proud of the meat’s freshness: “Taking it back to Tokyo?” he asked, “No problem! It’ll be fine for about a week!” Wow, can you really keep raw horse for a week?

・Voila! Home-made basashi

So the very next day, Mami had the horse meat in her hot little hand and was headed for the editorial department. She sliced it up right away, and arranged it on a plate with ginger and soy sauce on the side, and a bottle of sake completed the beautiful picture. Voila! Here it was, the home-made basashi she’d been longing for. Some staff members in their early 30s volunteered to give it a taste test and let us know how it went…

“So meaty. The texture is incredibly fleshy.” (Ms. K)

“It doesn’t smell bad at all. It’s good!” (Mr. K)

“Yeah, this is great! This is basashi, the real deal.” (Mr. H)

“Yum! This might just be the best basashi I’ve ever had!!” (Ms. M)

…and surprisingly, it was very well received! At first, not a single chopstick ventured toward the meat—worried about food poisoning? But, after trying it once and getting a good taste of horse, the team were positively wolfing it down. As Mami looked on with amazement, the plate was completely emptied. Just one taste did the trick!

・Flavor and texture with plenty of horse power

The basashi served up in most Japanese pubs can be soggy (maybe because it’s been frozen and then defrosted?), and the texture is definitely inferior. But the fresh stuff has the characteristic plump mouth-feel and flavor of raw meat.

・Great as a snack with sake!

There was no unpleasant smell accompanying the fine flavour of the horse, and the rice wine went down a treat with the meat… Whoever came up with the idea of having ginger, soy sauce and horse meat with Japanese sake was a genius… oops, take it easy on the sauce during the working day… (eek!)

Anyway, the home-made basashi was a great success, and Mami loved it so much she said she’d definitely do it over and over again! If you’re in Japan and you’d like to make the pilgrimage to basashi‘s homeland Kumamoto but it’s too far away, why not try Nagano basashi for starters! It’s just three hours from Tokyo on the train. And if you love Japanese sake, you should try the interesting combo of sake-and-horse!

▼ The sign on the right is advertising “best-quality basashi

▼ Hmmm, the shape of this horse meat is just like a cut of fatty tuna!

▼ The naked meat, out of the plastic pack.

▼ Here it is again, all cut up.

▼ The perfect partners… With ginger, soy sauce and Japanese sake for a winning combination.

▼ So raw you can almost taste it just from the photo!

▼ The three types of basashi (the meat in the yellow tray is the highest grade)

▼ Sign says “Inspected. OK for sashimi”. See? Totally safe!

I don’t know about you, but that certainly whetted my appetite… I’d try most things once! Come on people, get on your horse! Why the long face…? If you feel in the mood now for some other tasty Japanese treats, try some poisonous puffer fish or check out these meat sculptures!

Original Japanese article by Mami Kuroi
Images: RocketNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]