Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

The history of katsuobushi

A fine food

Japan is a country with a rich history. A history that dates back thousands of years and with such a vibrant past. Given that Japan is an island nation, seafood has always been an important part of the Japanese diet. Even today, most Japanese people enjoy a large number of dishes that include many kinds of fish and seafood thus the appetite is still strong for such food. Katsuobushi is right at the heart of this food culture and a very important ingredient. It is a food that came to be a long time before now and has been instrumental in forming many aspects of modern day food culture.


Before hitting the history books, letfs just give a brief overview of what katsuobushi is and the key points surrounding it. For many people, the first time katsuobushi catches their eye is when they are served a warm Japanese dish and see lots of something that looks a lot like pencil shavings wriggling about on their plate. Katsuobushi is dried bonito shavings and it is very, very, very good for you. The taste is something that could only come from the sea, it is strong tasting without shocking the taste buds and it has so many health benefits. Katsuobushi contains lots of amino acids and are extremely rich in many important vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, niacin, iron and taurine which keep you strong and healthy.


Katsuobushi is an ingredient in Japanese cuisine, also known as dried bonito flakes in English. It is made from the Bonito fish; the meat is heated and hung to dry, before being shaved into flakes. It is used as a base for all Japanese cooking. It is also known to be good for high blood pressure and brain function. Since it is a fish based food, it contains high levels of calcium as well as a good balance of Vitamin D, which together are effective in helping healthy bone development.


Since it is a dried food, it doesnft go off quickly and is easy to store, which has contributed to its long history as an important ingredient for the Japanese. In recent years, it has become known throughout the world as a ghealth or diet foodh. If you type ekatsuobushif into a search engine, youfll find dozens of hits with news articles about its health benefits.

A long history

So where did this famous katsuobushi come from? Letfs go through a short history of how ancient people created katsuobushi, and how it grew to its current popularity.


Beginning more than 4-5 centuries ago, ancient Japanese people dried fish for food. This would also be boiled down to create dashi, or stock, that could be used for cooking. Dashi is still used today in Japanese cooking. For 240 years, until the introduction of soybeans to Japanese agriculture, it was the number one condiment in Japanese cuisine.


At about the same time as the growth of soybeans as a crop, new techniques were imported into Japan which enabled food ingredients to be dry smoked. This technique led to the creation of katsuobushi. Cooked foods (as opposed to sashimi, or raw fish) and soups were also all the rage at this time, and dashi made from katsuobushi became wildly popular.


People began to buy and sell katsuobushi, and these pioneers became the founders of business in Japan. At the time, there was a fisherman in southern Japan known as Kijuu Jintarou. Jintarou was one of the first to bring the technique for katsuobushi to Japan. As the technique was slowly perfected, katsuobushi became an important commodity in southern Japan. Those who learnt how to make katsuobushi spread the technique until it became prevalent throughout the entire country.


These events bring us back to the present, with a greater understanding of the impressive history of the food. It is not something that everyone can make at home. These days, you can find it in Asian food stores, or even sometimes in the Asian Food section of your supermarket. Why not try making some Japanese food with katsuobushi for dinner tonight? You can eat it as is, without heating. Why not give it a go!


For those of you that donft know lots of recipes that use katsuobushi and how to use it, here is a little information on it to get you started. Katsuobushi is very versatile. Given itfs subtle yet refined and ever so slightly fishy flavour (without being overpowering in the least) it can be added as an ingredient to a huge variety of dishes adding another layer of complexity of flavour without detracting from the other flavours. This is what makes it so useful and easy to use, itfs part of the flavour team so to speak and wants to get on with everyone else in the mealc Katsuobushi is often used as a simple topping ingredient for meals like okonomiyaki (Japanese style savoury pancakes), udon noodles and takoyaki. It is finely sprinkled on cold tofu, chopped fresh ginger and soy sauce to make a magnificent side dish. Very often it is is added into onigiri (Japanese rice balls) either in the centre on its own or mixed in with the rice adding just enough taste to brighten the rice ball up while enhancing its nutritional qualities incredibly. These are just a few of the ways it is included in Japanese dishes, once the taste is acquired, it is hard not to use in everything!


Well, I hope youfve learnt a little something about katsuobushi. It is an impressive food with a long history. You can use it as a condiment, topping or in dashi, so itfs a great, useful addition to your pantry. It has a long history and that history will be preserved and embraced in years to come in Japan and all over the world. Please give it a go if you havenft already, itfs such a fantastic food!