Dry Aging Fish: Creating Hype, Exclusivity, and Envy


Before beginning, we’d first like to make it clear that this article is not aimed at any one particular individual, restaurant or media outlet and instead aimed at sparking a conversation around how certain aspects of food trends are marketed to people. We acknowledge that the restaurant and service industry is a difficult place from which to make a living, and that it is usually impossible to allocate any resources or time to even consider or think about these issues deeply.  

This article is our thoughts and opinions after reading, learning and experimenting with the ins and outs of aging fish in order to produce our series on dry aging. 

The story of creating hype, whether bringing a new product to market or to grow a new food trend, always follows the same blueprints. Its success is based on manipulating human emotions, building on the feelings of envy to create a fear of missing out (FOMO). 

To begin, the haves always market the exclusivity and uniqueness of the new trend. This allure creates demand in the market. However, instead of meeting the demand, the haves then do everything they can in order to prevent the have-nots from joining their ranks. 

They put up multiple barriers to entry, further exacerbating the feelings of FOMO, acting as a positive feedback loop to increase demand and hype. At the same time, it preserves the status of the haves as the super typicals of the group. 

Dry aging fish has emerged as the latest captivating trend in the culinary world. Its success is no different, and relies on the same principles of hype, exclusivity and envy. 

Example 4

Fostering envy through cultural associations

Read any article on dry aging fish and they immediately start by emphasizing its connection to Japanese culture. It’s deliberately made in a vague way, put in terms such as ‘it takes inspiration from a Japanese technique’, or ‘it shares its roots from Japanese culture’. Making a deliberate link between dry aging fish and an old Japanese practice taps into the power of cultural associations. 

Japan is admired for its rich culinary traditions and meticulous attention to detail. Its culinary prestige, precision and innovation holds significant influence in the culinary world. By aligning dry aging fish with Japan, people are leveraging this reputation to evoke envy among consumers. This perception entices consumers with the opportunity to connect with a foreign culture and unique gastronomic experience, thus cultivating a longing to be part of this trend. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In our opinion, dry aging fish has nothing to do with Japanese culture. Ask anyone who has worked in the Japanese restaurant industry themselves or are familiar with Japanese cuisine, there is nothing even remotely related to dry aging fish. 

The closest possible techniques you might find in Japan is salted, dried and preserved fish (himono/干物) or wet aged fish found in sushi, both which are a far cry from dry aging fish. Both these techniques arise from the technological limitations of the time. For example, dried fish was a necessity in order to extend the shelf life of food back when refrigeration was not available and fish needed to be transported over long distances. The same goes for sushi and sashimi. Fish was never aged deliberately to improve flavor. Instead, the concept and taste of sushi was born in a time of less developed transport networks and again, a lack of refrigeration technology. By the time fish arrived at the shop, the fish were no longer at the peak of freshness and thus the softer texture and more developed taste of matured fish became associated with sushi and sashimi. 

Dry aging fish could not be any more different, with fish kept in highly technologically advanced fridges in temperature and humidity controlled environments. If anything, dry aged fish is simply the application of dry aging technology on fish instead of beef, with no relation to Japan at all. 

Even in Japan, it’s almost impossible to find anyone dry aging fish in a high-tech dry ager, whilst techniques such as wet aging for sushi and drying fish for himono can still be found everywhere. It’s not uncommon to still find households that salt and dry their own fish, whilst sushi restaurants have now developed specialized fridges to wet age fish for sushi. 

If dry aging fish doesn’t exist inside of Japan, what more is it other than an invention of the English-speaking world masquerading and misleading people as exotic technique? 

Example 3

Creating barriers to maintain the status quo

There’s nothing better at creating envy than making sure what you’re doing is unattainable yet highly visible, making sure that people are forever drooling through the windows. 

Dry aging fish is perfect at achieving just that. The startup cost for buying all the equipment is prohibitively expensive. A single fridge can cost thousands of dollars, yet alone the multiple fridges needed to run a restaurant. They can also be hard to source and usually only sold commercially. This makes it extremely hard for the layperson to get into dry aging fish themselves due to the huge capital and space requirements. 

If this sounds bad enough, many proponents of dry aging insist that it’s only possible to successfully dry age fish using not only fish straight from the boat that was dispatched using the ikejime method, but also fish that have never come into contact with fresh water again thereafter.  In our opinion, this is not only unnecessary, but deliberately designed so that consumers will never be able to source fish that meets these requirements. Short of being a fisherman yourself or catching your own fish, it’s impossible to obtain fish that meets these standards from your local fishmonger. 

From the perspective of the people who sell dry aged fish, this just couldn’t get any better. Here right in front of you is a product that you’ve basically cornered the market for. It’s not only very difficult for competition to enter, but consumer perception also makes them believe that the fish they have at home is inferior, and that they will never be able to taste great fish unless they keep on buying dry aged fish from suppliers. The lack of competition also means that they can keep prices high, for a product that in our opinion isn’t really that much better

Example 2

Exclusivity as a marketing tool

You can completely see this from the way it’s marketed. You hear it over and over again: ‘there’s no way to learn how to dry age fish from a recipe or video, you have to figure it out yourself from experience’. Is this really true though? We feel that if you are able to source the fish required and pay for the exorbitantly priced equipment. Then it’s simply a matter of adjusting the settings of the machine and letting it do the work. Sure there’s slight variation in how long you should age the fish to get optimal results, but it isn’t any more tinkering and experimentation than you would have to do for making tempura or miso

It isn’t that we have a problem with telling people that they need to experiment for themselves to achieve a certain skill. If anything, we do the same when asking people to learn to choose fish for sashimi or create the optimal tempura batter. For us, it’s the language they use- telling people over and over again that they’ll never make it, or that they’ll never be able to overcome and surpass the ‘master’ of their craft. When we hear this, all we think about is people trying to hide the fact that the skill that their livelihood depends on isn’t as hard to learn or replicate as they would like people to believe. Instead, they try to position their skills as rare and highly sought-after, thus generating a sense of scarcity and desirability. 

Example 1


When we started this website, it was all about showing people that there really isn’t a need to squeeze hot towels for years before you can make great nigiri, or a need to fry tempura for 10 years before you open a restaurant. The belief that one needs to apprentice under a master for many years to cultivate a skill in the culinary world is antiquated, we’ve been there and done that, and it just isn’t necessary. Have you ever wondered why some chefs or people that work in the food industry are so obsessed with having a secret recipe or technique? When you think about it, it’s obviously because the recipe or technique is so simple and easy to replicate and learn that it has to be kept a secret. If it really was a special skill or technique unique to you, then it wouldn’t need to be kept as a secret anyway.

1 Comment

  1. Word!

    Thank you for sharing knowledge in a healthy and true way.

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