Katsuobushi (鰹節) is a basic ingredient in the Japanese kitchen made from Skipjack Tuna which has been steamed, dried, smoked and then cured using Aspergillus glaucus, a type of mold. This process turns the fish into a wood-like block and significantly increases the amount of inosine monophosphate (IMP) contained within the fish. The Katsuobushi is then shaved on a plane before being used for cooking.
What's it taste like?
Since it's dried and shaved very thin, it has an almost paper-like consistency, but as it meets your tongue, it explodes with an intense smoky flavour that almost tastes like you're sucking on a bouillon cube, or a piece of dry-cured ham without much salt. The flavor is more meaty and smoky than fishy, and if you've ever had miso soup before, you'll recognize the flavour since miso soup is made using stock extracted from katsuobushi.
Where do I get it?
Katsuobushi should be available at any Japanese grocery store and may be found in the "Asian" section at major supermarkets. They either come in big plastic bags, or in smaller bags which contain small serving sized packets.
When is it best?
Since it's a dried food, there is no season, however you want to make sure it's not past its expiry date as the flavour diminishes as it gets older.
How do I use it?
Katsuobushi comes in a few different thicknesses. The thick ones are used for making dashi (Japanese stock), while the thinner ones can be used as a topping for various dishes including okonomiyaki and oshitashi. When mixed with soy sauce, it's called okaka and is a common filling in onigiri (rice balls)
Some studies have shown that when katsuobushi interacts with certain enzymes an oligopeptide is produced that lowers blood pressure.
kezuribushi, kezurikatsuo, hanakatsuo, shaved skipjack, shaved bonito, bonito flakes, skipjack flakes
I love bonito flakes and miso soup. In fact I love japanese food! But I didn't knew all this important facts about katsuobushi and is so interesting.
Do you think it's possible to find it in a commercial version without the msg?
p.s. as usual your pictures are so clean, sharp and beautiful!
aaah marc i think this new blog is a fantastic idea!! i love bonito...i can just pour into my mouth straight out of packet and it'll make my day just fine. also, if i have takoyaki, you don't see the takoyaki cause i have a sea of bonito on top of it...it's heaven 😉
Mmm...bonito. I love it piled on okonomiyaki. The umami flavor is outstanding...the sight of all those wiggling flakes are a bonus.
Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. says
What an AMAZING photo!!!!
I could only find the thin katsuobushi - can i still use it to make stock?
also, can you recommend a good brand of mirin?
Marc Matsumoto says
The thin kind is fine (it just tends to be more expensive). As for mirin, I don't have a particular brand I recommend, but look at the ingredients. I try to steer clear of brands that list "Corn Syrup" as the first ingredient. Some of them also include MSG which I also try and avoid.
Thomas Abraham says
Mitoku Organic Mikawa Mirin is a good mirin. and relatively easy to find. If you can only find the thin shaved one use it for smaller servings. the very small packets are perfect size for 1 bowl of stock. MSG isn't soo terrible. If you consume to much you can loose your sense of taste and if you are allergic then it obviously isn't good for you. But, otherwise, its not that much worse than processed table salt. It just tastes better.
check out this article and find out how many of the processed foods in your cupboard have msg in them.
Lin Fox27 says
honestly ihavent it this kind of food before