Bonito flakes, also known as "katsuobushi" in Japanese, are a quintessential ingredient in okonomi-yaki and other traditional dishes.
These wispy, pinkish-brown flakes are made from dried, fermented, and smoked bonito fish, a type of tuna found in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
The process of making dried bonito flakes is intricate and time-consuming. It begins with boiling the bonito, followed by smoking and fermenting it.
Afterward, the fish is shaved into thin flakes, often using a specialised tool called a katsuobushi kezuriki. This technique produces incredibly thin, feather-light flakes that are brimming with umami.
Bonito flakes are used to make dashi, a fundamental soup stock. Dashi forms the base of many traditional dishes like miso soup and noodle broths.
When steeped in hot water, and combined with kombu, bonito flakes release their rich, smoky flavour, adding depth to a wide array of Japanese recipes.