I feel like this is another "real wasabi or not" conundrum.

Essential to Japanese cuisine, especially indispensable in dashi, katsuobushi is not cheap in Japan or in the U.S. But how can I tell if a pack of katsuobushi I see in a store or I have sitting in my pantry is made from real skipjack tuna or its cheap substitute bonito?

I know there isn't a whole lot to choose from when it comes to buying katsuobushi in the U.S. What makes this matter even more confusing is that a lot of the product-of-Japan katsuobushi sold in the U.S. -- at least every kind that I have seen -- lists "かつお" (skipjack tuna) as its ingredient in Japanese, but also has a separate English label that says "ingredients: bonito". Which is it then? Are there methods through which I can tell if a pack is the real deal?

1 Answer 1


I suspect that what you have here is a translation issue:

There are a range of fish called "Bonito", which are largely fish from the mackerel family. However, one of the fish also known as Bonito is the Skipjack Tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), which goes under a range of names including Arctic Bonito, Bonito, Ocean Bonito (see the huge variety of local names listed according to the FAO here)

To quote the site:

UK : Bonito , Striped bellied bonito , Striped bellied tunny .

USA : Arctic bonito , Bonito , Mushmouth , Ocean bronito , Oeeanie bonito , Oeeanie skipjack , Skipjack , Skipjack tuna , Skippy , Striped bonito , Striped tuna , Victor fish , Watermelon , Hawaii: Aku , Aku kinai .

As food labeling requirements are reasonably strict in both the USA and Japan, I suspect that if you see it labeled as Skipjack in Japanese, then it almost certainly is Skipjack (well, so long as you can rely on the fisheries people to be properly identifying their species), and what you are seeing is just the local variant name which someone has decided is the name for this type of fish in the USA.

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    Solid answer...I will add that for the highest quality, one can source a whole block of katsobushi (and a grater box/shaver).
    – moscafj
    Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 12:06

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