If you ever tried miso soup, or decided to make it, you would need to make a stock as a base before adding the miso paste. The base for almost all Japanese dishes is dashi, and one of the key ingredients is Katsuo-bushi.
It sometimes comes in a sachet, or in a bag as chips or shavings. But for a connoisseur, it can be purchased in a dried solid form. To the uninitiated, Katsuo-bushi might not even have a physical appearance of a fish. You might be mistaken for a fossilized mud stick, but it’s really a skip jack tuna.
The best fish for making katsuo-bushi is young tuna that has a final water content of no more than 10 to 15 percent. The lower grades have a higher content of both water and oil. The process of drying the fish requires a total of five to six months after it is boiled to activate healthy bacteria and enzymes in the flesh, then dried in the sun.
If ever pick up the flakes and cup them into your hand, you’ll notice a smoky subtle aroma. Before the finally being suitable for making a fine dashi, it is smoked and aged with humid conditions to provoke a fine mold, which compares to the furry rind found on certain French cheeses.
In the end, there is nothing quite like katsuo-bushi’s elegance, flavor and the imparting of a homeopathic remedy. The choice is up to you, and your pocket, it ranges in price from around ¥1,500 a kilo to over ¥5,000+ due to different grades of fish.