Kishu Sumi Binchotan |Wakayama|

If you are a connoisseur of Japanese foods, you might love traditional Japanese grilled foods such as Yakitori. And you might have heard that traditional chefs favor a charcoal called Binchotan, especially when grilling skewered foods.

We ordered this sumi from Wakayama prefecture where Kishu was born, as well as the Japanese dog Kishu, originally used to hunt wild boar and deer. The Kishu would stalk prey quietly rather than bark making an excellent partner.

Pictured is Kishu sumi binchotan, $10 for half a kilo – I am asked by a friend who sees it in disbelief, he cannot believe the price, me too.

Binchotan burns cleanly with a high steady heat and the alkalised ashes are said to neutralise protein acids and other undesirable acidic products during cooking. Due to “far-infrared radiation” produced by the charcoal, foods are quickly sealed.

Binchotan is a highly dense charcoal and burns for a very long time, with each piece being able to burn for 3 to 5 hours depending on the thickness and type.

What makes this sumi special is, Binchotan charcoal after being taken out of the kiln, is smothered with soil-mixed wet ash to put out the fire. This process gives a light-gray color to the surface of the charcoal, hence its alternative name, “white charcoal.”

But pure sumi binchotan can be extraordinary as it has various uses aside from cooking. Activated charcoal is considered to be medicine’s most powerful absorbent and as such, it readily works to absorb many toxins, poisons and heavy metals from the body, rendering them harmless. Activated charcoal is a non-toxic antidote that has been used effectively as far back as the Egyptian dynasty and possibly longer.

They say, if you strikes two pieces together, one hears a clear, metallic sound. It is an excellent electrical conductor. It contains a variety of minerals that were absorbed during its life as tree.

In the bag it looks very white and different under the sunlight as seen in the photo.