Bonito flakes – known in Japanese as katsuobushi – are dried, fermented and smoked shavings of skipjack tuna. These typical dancing flakes are eaten in Japan on just about anything there is to eat. In hot and cold dishes, in broth or as a seasoning. These wafer-thin bonito flakes also provide a real umami party on our tables.
Before the bonito flakes actually become flakes, a long fermentation process precedes. The thin shavings are made from dried, fermented and smoked tuna: skipjack tuna to be precise.
Four pieces are taken from one fish, which can be turned into katsuoboshi. The pieces of tuna are first cooked for one and a half to two and a half hours in an iron basket. Afterwards, the bones and skin must be removed by hand. When that´s over, the fish is smoked. Usually on cherry or oak; a process that is repeated as 10 to 15 times.
Any imperfections and fat are shaved off the outside of the fish, after which the long-term process really begins. The bonito must be dried. Usually this is just done outside in the sun, where the fish are left to dry for two to three days. This process is repeated several times and can take anywhere from five months to two years.
When the bonito is ready, the famous wafer-thin flakes are shaved. This is traditionally done on a katsuobushi kezuriki: a kind of wooden mandolin with a tray underneath to collect the delicate flakes.
Bonito flakes are the perfect base for Dashi (Japanese broth) or to make sauces. For dancing flakes on your dish, sprinkle a little over steaming hot dishes, such as miso soup. This way you can create your own umami party on your plate. Literally. The steam from a steaming plate causes the thin, light flakes to move. As a result, the flakes appear to dance when served on hot dishes.
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