Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

How to use katsuobushi

So good for you

In a land rich in diversity of flavour and style, katsuobushi fits right in. This is a food with a long history in Japan and a food of immense nutritional value. Katsuobushi is one of the heritage foods of Japan and still eaten in great abundance and used in many ways. With katsuobushi, two things can always be assured when itfs used, firstly that it packs a nutritional punch that your body will love and secondly that it will blend in with any savoury dish and invigorate the flavour of the dish. Letfs learn more about how to use it.

 

For those that donft know about this fantastic food, here is just a quick recap on katsuobushi. Katsuobushi is smoked, dried and fermented bonito. It is bought either in whole fillets or in packets containing the shavings. The process of making it is very long and can be extended for years to produce some of the best tasting katsuobushi. Katsuobushi is extremely good for us and can and should be eaten very frequently as it contains so many nutrients. Katsuobushi contains lots of amino acids and are extremely rich in many important vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, niacin, iron and taurine which keep us strong and healthy. It also has very high concentrations of DHA which makes up over 95% of the omega 3 fatty acids in our brains, and more than 90% of the omega 3 fatty acids in our retina. DHA is really important for keeping our brains functioning at its best. Eating katsuobushi is believed to be very helpful with metabolic syndrome, arteriosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, allergic rhinitis, improving eyesight, dementia and depression.


Just so many uses

One of the most well known uses of katsuobushi is in dashi stock. When making dashi, katsuobushi is soaked in water heated to near boiling temperature allowing the flavours and nutrients of the katsuobushi to fuse into the stock. The resultant stock has a multitude of uses and forms the base of many Japanese dishes. This type of dashi is commonly used in soup dishes and with noodles. As bonito is extremely high in protein (they are about 25% protein), katsuobushi is both good for us and delicious. Japanese people refer to a word they describe as umami, the fifth taste sensation, of which this is very high.

 

Bonito flakes, or katsuobushi, is also a great little taste provider for non boiled foods too. One example of these is onigiri. Onigiri are a very popular and useful Japanese food that consists of a ball of rice, usually wrapped in nori and filled with various ingredients. Many housewives in Japan, when making a quick and easy lunch, mix katsuobushi in with the rice before forming the rice ball. The result is a simple but healthy lunch on the cheap.

 

One of the best uses of katsuobushi is with a dish called okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a kind of Japanese style pancake filled with various ingredients such as seafood, meats and vegetables. They are served with a variety of sauces and then eaten with chopsticks. At most restaurants in Japan, patrons will have their okonomiyaki dish put before them with a small bowl of katsuobushi to scatter over the meal. Whether the pancake is filled with seafood or not, the contribution to the meal it makes is enormous and just has to be tried to be believed. Perhaps the most surprising and fun effect of katsuobushi when sprinkled over a hot okonomiyaki is what happens when the heat from the food hits it. Katsuobushi, when heated, moves around. In fact, a handful of katsuobushi when thrown over hot food dishes such as this wriggles around for quite sometime. A passerby who didnft know any better, could swear that something live was being served, but in fact itfs just the natural reaction of the very dry and thin shavings absorbing the moisture and the resultant movement from this.

A very accommodating food

The beauty of katsuobushi is truly its ability to work in with and complement others foods and that is why it is so versatile in any dish. That is why many Japanese cooks typically blend it into simple dishes to brighten the look and taste. One example of this is a very simple dish where you fry spinach in a frypan, add and stir egg in and finally throw a handful of katsuobushi on top. Watch it wriggle around on the hot steaming dish and rest assured that youfre eating a very nutritious and nourishing side dish. If you like cheese on toast and are adventurous, why not try to brighten the dish by topping it with some katsuobushi to give it nutritional balance and an enjoyable taste. Many Japanese housewives often serve a side dish consisting of sliced tofu squares topped with katsuobushi, chive and soy sauce. Again, itfs very healthy and the taste is something else. These three ideas really typify the flexibility of katsuobushi and its ability to strike a balance with any other food.

 

One cannot go past a very pleasant and famous dish called takoyaki when when speaking of uses of katsuobushi. Takoyaki is a very famous dish from a part of central Japan called Kansai. Takoyaki is made by pouring batter into heated trays with spherical indentations and placing a small piece of octopus inside them. Once they have fried sufficiently, they are removed, a light sauce is put on them and katsuobushi sprinkled over the top. This dish is very popular with Japanese people and is very common as a kind pub food and for special events. Again, katsuobushi complements the key ingredient of octopus without creating an overpowering contrast of flavours. Even fried food dishes like this that may not be the best for us is made healthier by just adding this wonderful ingredient, katsuobushi.

 

So there we have it, katsuobushi is a fine addition to any dish and can be used liberally. It has many remarkable health benefits that make it a winner with nutritional experts which is very reassuring for the health conscious. If youfve never tried it, what are you waiting for? Get down to your local Japanese grocery and pick some up and give it a try, itfs a great food to have all your life.