Rosy Flaked Fish

Sakura Dembu

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    , enough for 8 mini rolls of sushi

Appears in

An Ocean of Flavor: The Japanese Way with Fish and Seafood

An Ocean of Flavor

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1988

  • About

The name sakura dembu literally means “cherry blossom flaked fish,” and it is a popular addition to rolled sushi, particularly in the springtime when picnic menus echo nature’s glory. Commercially prepared sakura dembu tends to be too sweet for American tastes, and sometimes the color is more than just blushing. Although it takes a bit of time to make sakura dembu, it’s not very difficult. And since it will keep for a month or more if well refrigerated, I urge you to try making your own rosy flaked fish to use in colorful sushi rolls.


  • 4-6 ounces scrod or other mild-flavored white-flesh fish
  • 2 teaspoons saké (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1 tiny drop red food coloring
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (syrupy rice wine)
  • scant ¼ teaspoon salt


  1. Cut the fish into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the rice wine over the fish, and add the other teaspoonful to a small pot of boiling water. Blanch the fish for 2 minutes in the vigorously boiling liquid, skimming off any froth from the surface. Drain the fish and let it cool naturally until you can handle it comfortably. Remove all skin, bones, and/or cartilage from the fish.
  2. Place the cooked fish in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse/process to flake the fish. Combine the food coloring and the syrupy rice wine in a small cup and stir well. Add this to the fish, and pulse/process to combine it well. Add the salt and pulse/process to distribute it well, too.
  3. Place the seasoned and tinted fish mixture in a dry non-stick skillet over low heat and slowly roast it until dry and fluffy, stirring frequently to break up lumps and prevent scorching. This dry-roasting may take up to 15 or 20 minutes. Patience is necessary, and increased heat cannot help speed the process.
  4. Turn the rosy-colored fish flakes out on a clean dry plate, and allow to cool to room temperature. If you are not using it all at once, store the sakura dembu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for future use. It will keep for at least 1 month.