Katsuobushi – Inevitable ingredient of Japanese dishes

  • FOOD
  • Katsuobushi

    Have you ever noticed thin wood-like shavings floating in the Japanese soups. If you have tried any Japanese soup, dashi is the main base ingredient in them, which is made from dried Bonito. The shavings that you can see in the soups are nothing but the dried fish flakes which have been a unique product of Japan ever since the ancient days, it is produced with continuous effort and a lot of time.

    What is it?

    Katsuobushi or the dried Bonito is one of the most important and inevitable ingredients of the Japanese recipes. It can be found in most Japanese dishes like soups, some onigiri, as seasoning for Takoyaki and some other Japanese unique recipes, sauces and many more. The manufacturing procedure of dried bonito flakes is really time consuming and difficult. We can find the whole Katsuobushi as well the shaved Honkarebushi packets in all supermarkets in the most readily usable form. Bonito or the tuna fish that is dried and then goes through a large number of processes takes several months of hard work and waiting to become ready to use in the Japanese recipes. Katsuobushi shaving for some dishes also uses special devices called Katsuobushi kezuriki. Being a dried product, it can be kept for long time without any problems and it is really tasty and healthy.

    Types of Katsuobushi


    Smoke drying bonito on wood fire gave birth to Arabushi, which was further found to be more delicious after getting mould on it. There are various kinds of katsuobushi.

    • Arabushi : smoke dried skipjack tuna after all the bones were removed which can be hard after drying.
    • Hadakabushi : arabushi surface is shaved away and then it is converted into shapes for convenient consumption.
    • Honkarebushi or Shiagebushi : hadakabushi that is moulded and fermented is called honkarebushi. The presence of mold eventually takes away the extra moisture if any was trapped inside the meat even after drying, thereby extending preservation length and quality of the product.

    Some places are famous for the production of dried bonito in Japan. The production of this dried fish flakes is done by skilful people and is carried out in a special environment with special procedures.



    • Slicing : Even the initial slicing of fish needs to be done in a specific way and needs special skills. Firstly, the head is removed and the portion in front and back of the spine is separated lengthwise, it is called the honbushi. The upperportion is called osubushi and the underneath one is called mesubushi. Again, all the pieces are cut into two further lengthwise portions called kamebushi.
    • Simmering : In this step, the fish pieces are prepared to be smoked by placing them in a metal tray called nikago, into an open kettle for around two hours.
    • Drying : In this step, the simmered pieces are cooled down and then the bones are removed. Then the fish pieces are inserted into smoke drying rooms and further are processed by heating in smoke and cooling. This process takes about a month to get the product called arabushi.
    • Trimming: Arabushi is trimmed into shapes to form hadakabushi.
    • Molding : Hadakabushi is molded to become honkarebushi and dried under sun for two days. Then it is kept away and the process is continued. The colour of the mold changes gradually and this process takes 3-4 months to become the ultimate product – honkarebushi.