Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

How to make katsuobushi

The jewel of the ocean

Katsuobushi has been prepared, refined and eaten for many centuries and is still going strong today. It is a very peculiar product for those not acquainted to its pencil shavings aesthetic but certainly a product that is easy to come to love. In this installment, wefll look at just how katsuobushi is made.


Bonito fish, which katsuobushi is made from, has been plentiful around the Japanese waters for a long time and is of course an excellent source of protein. With katsuobushi, the Japanese found an ingenious way of creating a bonito product that can last a very long time on the shelve and retains all the important nutritional elements that the protein filled bonito has.


Katsuobushi is truly a nutritional splendor to have in the kitchen. It has numerous health benefits, making it an integral part of the Japanese staple diet. Bonito fish are made up of 25% protein, they are extremely rich in vitamin B12, niacin, iron and taurine giving them many essential health benefits, the highest concentrations of the parts containing the most health benefits can be found on the part of the meat that is near the spine of the fish, this part is usually a deep red colour. Because bonito is rich in inosine acid due to its large amounts of protein, it has a particularly strong and delicious savoury flavour. Just like with the other ingredients in dashi, there are substantial health benefits. Bonito dashi helps to prevent hypertension, relaxes the eyes, strengthens liver function, prevents arteriosclerosis and can help with fatigue because of its health benefits. It is said in Japan that eating bonito and bonito dashi regularly will allow for a long and healthy life because of its health benefits. So there you have it, itfs an instant winner with anyone raising kids or looking to keep their own health up. If you have this everyday it will certainly health your general health.

A very long process

The first part of making katsuobushi is obviously catching the fish. The most well known fishing grounds for bonito, the fish that katsuobushi is made from is along the coast of Shizuoka prefecture in the central part of Honshu, Japanfs main island. Particular areas such as Taizu, Numazu, Shimizu and Omaezaki in Shizuoka prefecture are very well known for the excellent quality bonito caught and catches there are sold through the country. Other areas of Japan such as Miyazaki, Mie and Kochi prefectures are also important areas for catching bonito.


To make katsuobushi, bonito are caught, gutted and filleted so that you are just left with the bonito fillet. They are then put into large specially designed contraptions that keep them in water just below boiling point for around an hour or so then they are deboned. The next stage is vital as these fillets are then smoked. Although methods vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, the basic process is that they are put into smokers for 5 hours or so and then taken out allowing the moisture to rise from the fish fillet. Because of all the smoke on them for so long they do tend to get quite black with a large built up of tar, during this whole process the tar is continually scrapped off. After repeating this over and over for weeks (and this does sometimes go on for a month) the fillets are then sun dried. Manufacturers use mold for this part, they spray special cultures on the fillets and leave them in a culture room, and this removes any further moisture and ferments them. You are then left with a completely dry and smoked fillet of bonito. By this stage, the fillet has usually shed around 75% of its original weight and is as hard as wood, clashing a couple of them together makes a sound like clashing rocks. Some of the really expensive types can repeat this process over and over for months or even a year or two. Pretty remarkable dedication to the cause of making good food I say, I can certainly tell you that gstandardh ones will do the trick so you donft have to pay too much to enjoy this wonderful food. Once ready, the product is then sold as a whole fillet or it is shaved and sold as packets of dried bonito shavings.


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 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 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!


Making katsuobushi is a long and arduous task but ultimately one that results in something quite special and something important to the culture of the people of Japan. Through many centuries, techniques have been refined, fishing areas explored, usages of katsubushi refined to bring us to a point where we can easily buy this glorious food anywhere and easily add it to anything. This is really one of those foods that we all must try and most of the time people will tend to enjoy it and start eating it often. For those of you that havenft tried it, please do, and you can now not only enjoy the taste but also the knowledge that the product youfre eating is the end of a very long process resulting in near perfection.