There are several types of katsuobushi that can be used for different purposes. The best will have light pink or beige shavings that will be slightly shiny. Once the packages are opened, the katsuobushi will begin to oxidize and go limp, and the color becomes dull. Katsuobushi is best stored in the freezer.
Hanakatsuo is thin petals that resemble large wood shavings. Some contain chiai (dark meat).
Shaved karebushi makes a flavorful stock full of aroma. It comes with or without chiai. The lighter-colored shavings are suitable for making clear dashi — ichiban dashi. The darker shavings are suitable for miso soups, simmered dishes and dressings.
Shaved arabushi is the most common type of katsuobushi found in the U.S. and is suitable for making soups, sauces and dressings. The more chiai you see in the shavings, the stronger the flavor.
Arakezuri has thicker shavings than hanakatsuo, with more chiai. Arakezuri produces a rich, strong dashi that is suitable for making braised dishes.
Itokezuri has the thinnest shavings. They are suitable as a garnish for salads and tofu.
Dashi pack is pre-shaved and partially pulverized katsuobushi that is sold in tea bags. It is very popular among Japanese cooks because it is easy to use. It is often combined with other dried ingredients such as konbu, shiitake mushrooms and other fish, such as sardines and mackerel, for a deeper umami flavor.
—Sonoko SakaiCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times