The ABCs of Dashi
KATSUO-BUSHI― BONITO ―鰹
Katsuo-bushi (dried bonito) has a long history. It is even mentioned in the Kojiki, Japan's oldest surviving chronicle. Apparently, Japanese people were already eating katsuo-bushi around 1500 years ago. During the Edo period (1603-1868), people began smoking katsuo-bushi and learned how it could be fermented. They used benign fungus to prevent katsuo-bushi from being spoiled by malignant fungus during long-distance transportation. This method paid off, and katsuo-bushi could now be preserved for a long period of time.
Furthermore, its flavor improved considerably. Katsuo-bushi with benign fungus came to be enjoyed as the highest-grade of katsuo-bushi. It is still a very popular fermented food product that is high in protein, low in fat, and rich in minerals and vitamins.
Until the arrival of "Kezuribushi" – dried bonito flakes wrapped in packaging – Japanese people used to stock katsuo-bushi at home and make their dashi using freshly shaved katsuo-bushi every day. It takes a bit of time to make dashi, but it’s like the process of grinding coffee beans and drip-brewing your own coffee. If you get used to the process of making dashi, you’ll find it's a good way to start every morning.
- OBUSHI MEBUSHI
To make katsuo-bushi, you first fillet a katsuo (a bonito fish). The topside is called "obushi", and the underside is called "mebushi". Traditionally, these cuts were seen as lucky charms that could be offered as wedding gifts. Obushi is low in fat and has a refreshing flavor, whereas mebushi is high in fat and has a richer taste. Because it contains less fat, obushi is easier to shave. We recommend starting with obushi if you are a beginner in making dashi.
PRODUCTION PROCESSHow many different ways are there to make katsuo-bushi ?
- "Ara-bushi" is made by filleting and smoking a bonito fish. It doesn’t come with any benign fungus. It is mainly used for kezuri-bushi, packaged dried bonito flakes. Ara-bushi is also sometimes called "hana-katsuo" ("Hana" means "flower".) If you want to make a light and refreshing dashi, try using ara-bushi.
- The process of making "kare-bushi" is the same as making ara-bushi, up until the smoking of the bonito fish. Then, you add some benign fungus and sun-dry the fish a few times to make kare-bushi. If you repeat this process more than four times (which takes about six months), you can make "honkare-bushi". Honkare-bushi is a luxury product that can be stocked for a long period of time. It has a great aroma and a wonderfully rich flavor.
"Kezuri-bushi" are dried bonito flakes that have been packaged to prevent them from becoming oxidized. Kezuri-bushi was created around the end of the 1960s, meeting the lifestyle needs of increasingly busy people. Now, most katsuo-bushi products available at Japanese supermarkets are kezuri-bushi. Kezuri-bushi made from both ara-bushi and kare-bushi can be used just like flakes that have been freshly shaved. "Atsukezuri" are thickly shaved dried bonito flakes. They can be simmered for long hours to make nimono (simmered vegetables and meat), soba noodles, and ramen noodles.
KATSUO DASHI RECIPE
“Katsuo-dashi” is a broth made using katsuo-bushi only.
Katsuo-dashi can be used when you want to give your nimono or miso a light flavor.
1 liter of water / 40g of katsuo-bushi