Bonito Kakuni (Simmered Bonito Cubes) is a diced bonito fillet cooked in sweet soy flavoured sauce with shredded ginger. It has a strong, sweet soy flavour and goes so well with rice. It is also great as nibbles for drinking sake and beers. Bonito Kakuni is very easy to make and keeps well in the fridge and freezer.
It is said in Japan that bonito caught in spring, which is called ‘hatsugatsuo’ (初鰹), has the best taste. The word hatsugatsuo means season’s first bonito. Because hatsugatsuo is associated with spring, this word is even used in Haiku (俳句, Japanese short poetry).
A Haiku traditionally contains a word or a phrase that symbolises a season and hatsigatsuo is listed as the word for spring. The most famous Haiku using this word is here.
目に青葉 山ほととぎす 初鰹 (Meni aoba Yama hototogisu Hatsugatsuo)
It says that we can see a lot of green leaves (青葉) outside, lesser cuckoo (ほととぎす) chirps in mountains and bonito is in season (初鰹).
This poem is written by Sodō Yamaguchi in the Edo period. Sodō composed a list of things that the Edo people favoured in spring to early summer. Apparently since then, eating hatsugatsuo in this season became chic and trendy among the people in Edo.
Now let’s talk about food.
About Kakuni (角煮)
If you Google search images of ‘kakuni’, it displays images of pork kakuni just like the photo in my recipe Pork Kakuni (Japanese Simmered Pork Belly). Wikipedia also says that kakuni is a Japanese pork dish. It is not wrong but not 100% right either.
Kakuni is a simmered dish with cubed meat or fish. The word ‘kaku‘ (角) in this context means diced or cubed and ‘ni‘ (煮) means simmered.
Because the word kakuni became a synonym for pork kakuni, it is better to use the ingredient name in other meat/fish kakuni. Hence, it’s Bonito Kakuni (Simmered Bonito Cubes). If you substitute bonito with tuna, you call it tuna kakuni.
What’s in Bonito Kakuni
It only consists of bonito, julienned ginger and typical Japanese seasonings:
- Bonito fillet (no skin) cut to 2cm/¾”cubes
- Julienned ginger
- Soy sauce
- Cooking sake
If you are not familiar with bonito, please visit my post Bonito Tataki (Seard Bonito).
Other fish fillets usually used to make kakuni like this are tuna and king fish. The bonito flesh is close to mackerel but I think that mackerel flesh is too soft for this dish.
The amount of sweetness can be adjusted to suit to your palate. I would not reduce the quantity of mirin. Reduce the sugar if you prefer the sauce to be less sweet.
How to Make Bonito Kakuni
Bonito flesh is reddish like mackerel, which has a stronger fish smell than the white flesh fish such as snapper.
To remove the fishy smell from the flesh, the cubed meat needs to be blanched quickly. You only need to boil them a minute or so until the surface of the fish pieces becomes completely white.
Drain and cook them in the seasoned sauce with ginger.
The fish cubes are cooked through very quickly as the size of the cubes is small. But you need to cook them for 10-15 minutes over medium heat until the liquid almost evaporates.
Make sure you roll the diced fish pieces in the sauce so that the sauce coats all sides of the cubes. You can shake the pan to do that or use a spatula to gently turn the cubes over.
As the liquid condenses, you will see the surface of the bonito cubes becomes shiny, which looks so appetising!
Great Pre-cooked Non-Perishable Food
Bonito Kakuni keeps a long time in the fridge – about 1 week. It is also good to freeze it.
Because of the sweet soy flavour coated around the bonito cubes, it goes so well with rice. But it is also wonderful as nibbles with drinks such as sake, shōchū (distilled Japanese spirit) and beer, in my view.
As a pre-cooked non-perishable dish, Bonito Kakuni is also perfect to put in a bento box.
Bonito Kakuni (Simmered Diced Bonito) is a diced bonito fillet cooked in sweet soy-flavoured sauce with shredded ginger. It goes so well with rice. Bonito Kakuni is also a great as nibbles to go with sake, beer and other non-sweet drinks. It is very easy to make and keeps well in the fridge.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 250g/0.6lb bonito fillets , cut into 2cm/¾” cubes (note 1)
- 1 tbsp julienned ginger
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 2 ½ tbsp sake
- ½-1 tbsp sugar
- 2 ½ tbsp water
Boil water (not in ingredients) in a saucepan. Add bonito pieces and cook for about 30 seconds or so until until the surface of the fish pieces becomes completely white. Drain.
Add the Sauce ingredients, blanched bonito pieces and ginger in a saucepan and cook over medium heat.
Cook for 10–15 minutes until the sauce almost evaporates.
While cooking, occasionally shake the pan so that the sauce coats bonito pieces evenly. If necessary, use a spatula to turn the bonito cubes over to get the sauce coating on all sides of the cubes.
Turn the heat off. Serve warm or at room temperature.
1. Bonito is a seasonal fish and you may not find it at fish shops all year round. If you can’t find bonito, you can substitute it with tuna or king fish.
2. You can keep Bonito Kakuni in the fridge for about a week. It is also OK to freeze it.
3. Nutrition per serving as a side. Sodium is high as it is assumed that all of the sauce is consumed.
serving: 67g calories: 149kcal fat: 1g (2%) saturated fat: 0.2g (1%) trans fat: 0.0g polyunsaturated fat: 0.3g monounsaturated fat: 0.1g cholesterol: 63mg (21%) sodium: 3222mg (134%) potassium: 639mg (18%) carbohydrates: 4.2g (1%) dietary fibre: 0.1g (0%) sugar: 3.3g protein: 27g vitamin a: 1.2% vitamin c: 2.5% calcium: 5.3% iron: 6.3%