Japan: About Basashi

Horse meat is the culinary name for meat cut from a horse. It is a major meat in only a few countries, notably in Central Asia, but it forms a significant part of the culinary traditions of many others, from Europe to South America to Asia. The top eight countries consume about 4.7 million horses a year. For the majority of mankind’s early existence, wild horses were hunted as a source of protein. It is slightly sweet, tender, low in fat and high in protein.

However, because of the role horses have played as companions and as workers, and concerns about theethics of the horse slaughter process, it is a taboo food in some cultures. These historical associations, as well as ritual and religion, led to the development of the aversion to the consumption of horse meat. The horse is now given pet status by many in some parts of the Western world, particularly in the U.S.A. and U.K., which further solidifies the taboo on eating its meat.

In 2005, the 5 biggest horse meat-consuming countries were China (421,000 tonnes), Mexico, Russia, Italy, and Kazakhstan (54,000 tonnes).

Basashi

(Photo by Liz Becerra-Basashi)

Raw, sliced horse meat, known as Basashi as served in Japan.  It is often served on a bed of ice with condiments like soy sauce, shiso leaves, and daikon (Japanese radish).

According to Japanfortheunivited.com, before 1867 and the Meiji restoration, Buddhist beliefs prevented people from killing animals for food. However, during hard times, this became unavoidable – but there weren’t many animals around. Despite being highly valued domestic animals, horses would have been obvious candidates for the dinner table, which is where the basashi tradition started.

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