WHAT IS BONITO FLAKE?
Also known as katsuobushi, this ingredient was first made in the late 1600s. The flesh of a bonito fish is dried, smoked, fermented and then grated into flakes. A key ingredient in dashi (powdered fish broth made from bonito and kelp), this is a major source of the umami flavor that you find in many Japanese dishes. While bonito flake is not a popular ingredient in Western cuisine, it deserves more recognition. Think of it as the prosciutto of the sea. The fresh fish first have their skeleton removed and are repeatedly smoked for up to a month. It’s then covered in mold and sun-dried for anywhere for several months to several years.
WHERE ARE BONITO FLAKES FROM?
The majority of these flakes are still made in Japan. Still made by hand, read about the difficulty of shaving by hand one of the hardest foods in the world!
WHEN IS BONITO FLAKE IN SEASON?
These fish flakes are dried and so have a long shelf life a.k.a. are available year-round. However if you have a choice between buying a block or a pre-grated package, go with the pre-grated. This fish is NOT fun to grate like a Parmesan Reggiano.
WHY DO BONITO FLAKES MOVE?
Does this mean my fish is still alive? Nope! These very thin slices of dried fish will move side to side when placed on top of a hot fish. The rising steam causes them to wave and simulate a living organism.
IS BONITO FLAKE HIGH IN MERCURY?
Despite the fact that bonito is basically a fast-growing skipjack tuna, it is actually low in mercury contamination! However due to the smoking process bonito flakes do contain benzopyrene which is considered to be carcinogenic. But the quantities present in bonito flakes is considered by most to be within safe limits. And it’s rich in healthy vitamins and minerals like B12, iron, niacin, and taurine.