Writer: Yumiko Ishimaru
“Bushi (節)” of katsuobushi refers to fish removing the head and innards, boiling to seal protein in, and then finally being smoked and dried until the moisture is less than 26%. This process concentrates the umami flavor after simmering.
The history of katsuobushi started with dried bonito fish in the Yamato Court era (the 4C-5C). Then, a new technique was imported into Japan as the roast seasoning method which removed the moisture from the bonito by smoking, thereby making it similar to today’s katsuobushi.
In Yamato Court era, there were two kinds of dried bonito fish. One was just dried and the other one was dried after simmering. The broth extracted from the simmered fish had rich flavor of umami and it was used as a condiment at that time.
I am so amazed by ancient people’s knowledge and sense of discovery.
The bonito fish was very treasured as a good protein source at that time; however, production of soybeans was being developed and soy condiments became rather popular. Then usage of bonito broth was being gradually disappeared.
However, people never forgot the umami of the bonito broth. With the dry smoking technique, some time later, they produced katsuobushi out of dried bonito fish. Since then, katsuobushi has established a firm position amongst Japanese condiments.
It is not too much to say that washoku was formed with the power of katsuobushi.