Kitchen Tips

The Secret to Longevity – Katsuobushi

It’s hard to imagine Japanese food without fish and with The Secret to Longevity – Katsuobushi, the dish is simply elevated to the next level in its deliciousness.

Katsuobushi also known as okaka is the dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna. Katsuobushi’s distinct umami flavor comes from its high inosinic acid content.

In fact the flavour of dashi is intangible without Katsuobushi and of course dried Kombu which are central to making the stock.

 

How is it made?

Katsuobushi

Image Courtesy: anjuli_ayer used under the Creative Commons Licence

The bonito fish is beheaded, eviscerated and cleaned, post which the fillets are arranged in a basket and simmered for an hour or more depending on the size of the fillets. The rib bones are removed after the fillets have been boiled.

For at least six hours a day, for up to two weeks, bonito fillets are smoked using oak, pasania, or castanopsis wood and fermented by spraying mold while drying in the sun for months (even years). They wind up looking like a twisted, charred piece of wood.

The large chunks of katsuobushi were shaved with an instrument called a katsuobushi kezuriki, similar to a wood plane.

Hanakatsuo is smaller with thinner shavings and is used as a flavoring and topping for many Japanese dishes, such as okonomiyaki. While the Kezurikatsuo that is slightly larger with thicker shavings is used to make dashi stock.

 

Health Benefits

Health Benefits of Katsuobushi

Image Courtesy: I Believe I Can Fry used under the Creative Commons Licence

Katsuobushi gives the dashi and other dishes the distinct flavour of Umami and hence it is considered delicious. It is rich in vitamin B12, niacin and iron making it a power house of health benefits.

Because of its high inosine acid and protein, it has a strong and delicious savoury flavour.

It is known to prevent hypertension while strengthening the functions of the liver and help reduce heart related diseases. It is one of the main components that contribute to Japan’s health and longevity.

So there you have it, the secret and most healthy ingredient in Japanese cuisines which instantly enhances flavour while also keeping you in the pink of health.

 

Dishes that use Katsuobushi

Katsuobushi - Dried Bonito Flakes

Image Courtesy: ostensiblyclear used under the Creative Commons Licence

Besides using it in dashi, these fish flakes are used frequently in restaurants and homes to make pan fry tofu and add it with tamagoyaki (a dish made with eggs, mirin, soy sauce, salt). You can also add Katsuobushi as a topping on this dish. It is a must-have ingredient for miso soup.

It is also used as a topping/ garnish on Okayu and used as a stuffing for onigiri rice balls and a popular topping in bento boxes as well. Katsuobushi is used as a seasoning for cold tofu with grated ginger and Welsh onion. It is a popular choice for soba noodles sprinkled with sesame seeds and sliced nori.

If you were to have a cat at home then Katsuobushi is a rich source of protein for the cats and are often sold in most of the pet stores.

The simplest dish with Katsuobushi has to be the ramen mixed with salt and topped with these flakes.

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