Katsuo-bushi: A Powerhouse of Flavor in Japanese Cuisine

Katsuo-bushi (鰹節, dried bonito flakes) forms a backbone of washoku, providing an umami supercharger to all kinds of dishes ranging from dashi to okonomiyaki thanks to the presence of inosinic acid, which exerts a synergistic flavor-enhancing effect on things like the glutamic acid found in konbu and soy sauce. It’s made by boiling the body of a bonito tuna after removing the head and insides for about an hour and then smoking and drying it. 

Makurazaki City and Yamakawa, Ibusuki City in Kagoshima Prefecture and Yaizu City in Shizuoka Prefecture account for approximately 97 percent of all katsuo-bushi production in Japan, and in 2014 roughly 30,000 tons of the stuff was produced–that’s a whole lot of fish flakes and flavor! And it’s good for your health, too, given the fact that it’s packed full of amino acids and vitamins like b12 as well as DHA, which is beneficial in combatting conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

And It’s Good For Your Health, Too, Given The Fact That It’s Packed Full Of Amino Acids And Vitamins Like B12 As Well As DHA, Which Is Beneficial In Combatting Conditions Such As Hypertension And Diabetes.

Various grades of katsuo-bushi are available depending upon the desired use

 Various grades of katsuo-bushi are available depending upon the desired use

Katsuo-kezuribushi & Katsuo-ofushikezuribushi: The Yin and Yang of Bonito Flakes

There are two types of katsuo-bushi, katsuo-kezuribushi (かつお削り節) and katsuo-ofushikezuribushi (かつお節削り節), both of which have distinct uses in Japanese cuisine. Katsuo-kezuribushi is made by shaving what is known as arabushi (荒節), which is the product that results from boiling, smoking and drying the bonito until its moisture content evaporates and it hardens, into very thin flakes. It possesses a distinctly powerful aroma and is further categorized into hana-katsuo (花かつお), used in miso soup, and atsugiri (厚削り), which is ideal for dishes that cooked in broth for a long period of time. Arabushi tends to be relatively inexpensive and accounts for about 80 percent of all katsuo-bushi sold.

Katsuo-ofushikezuribushi is made by shaving down karebushi (枯れ節), which is basically arabushi that has been sprayed with a beneficial type of mold and then dried in the sun. According to Kumiko Akiyama, co-owner of the katsuo-bushi specialty retailer Akiyama Shoten in Tsukiji, the reason why mold is applied is that during the Edo Period of Japanese history, mold developed on katsuo-bushi that was transported from the ancient provinces of Satsuma and Tosa in western Japan to the old capital of Edo, and it turned out to make the arabushi incredibly delicious when sun-dried.
Akiyama-san also says that the optimal way to store katsuo-bushi is rather similar to that of nori­–put it into a bag with as much of the air removed as possible after opening the original packaging and placing it into the freezer. Since it doesn’t freeze, there’s no need to thaw it out and thus can be used immediately after taking it out of the freezer. Dashi made from katsuo-bushi can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week when placed in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. She also notes that one of the great things about katsuo-bushi when used in broth is that the oil from the fish doesn’t separate and float to the top but rather transforms into umami and permeates the entire liquid.

Akiyama Shoten 秋山商店
A katsuo-bushi specialty store founded in 1916, Akiyama Shoten is known for being the first retailer to commercialize kezuribushi and they offer a wide lineup of katsuobushi products, including their popular original version of the katsuobushi-kezuriki (traditional bonito flake shaver). There are many customers from overseas who purchase the aromatic, flavorful kezuribushi that the store is famous for.

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  Mrs. Kumiko Akiyama, co-owner of Akiyama Shoten



  Mrs. Kumiko Akiyama, co-owner of Akiyama Shoten


4-14-16 Tsukiji


Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3541-2724
Open: 5:30~13:30
Closed: Sun/national holidays/market closure day
URL: http://akiyamashouten.com/

Written By

Jon Sheer