What is Sakura Denbu?

Sakura denbu refers to mashed, seasoned fish that is colored light pink with red food coloring. The pink color evokes the blossoms of Japanese cherry trees, called “sakura,” in Japanese. Sakura denbu is mainly used to add color to rice and sushi dishes. It gives off an airy mouth-feel with a lightly sweetened and gentle flavor. Denbu is often mistaken for “oboro,” but oboro uses shrimp and/or salmon. Denbu is soft and fluffy while oboro is crumbly. Either can be used to add color or as a topping for sushi, etc.

Though “denbu” is rarely eaten in large quantity, it is indispensable for its role in adding eye-pleasing color to many dishes. You may wonder what denbu is made from. The flesh of white fish such as snapper, codfish, flounder, etc. can be used but generally, codfish is the basic ingredient. The codfish is normally boiled, placed on a cloth, and rubbed under running water to wash and remove excess fat. After the moisture is squeezed out, it is ground in a mortar with sugar, salt, red food coloring, etc. It is then slowly cooked over low heat in a pan or in a doubleboiler. Codfish is low in fat and rich in vitamin A, which promotes eye health.

How to Cook Sakura Denbu

Pink Rolled Eggs Recipe

Leftover Sakura denbu is perfect for making fried rolled eggs.
Pink Rolled Eggs

Ingredients (Serves 1 roll)

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. of sakura denbu
  • Olive oil (as needed)

Cooking Directions

  1. Beat the denbu and eggs together.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a rectangular omelet pan. Pour 14 of the egg mixture into the pan and spread evenly.
  3. When the mixture begins to set, roll it from back to front. Pour more egg mixture onto the open area while letting the mixture seep below the egg mixture being cooked.
  4. Shape into a roll while it gently cooks.
  5. Adjust the shape into a neat roll while repeating the process until all the egg mixture is used.

Let’s Make Sakura Denbu!

Sakura Denbu


  • 2 pieces of codfish
  • 2.5 Tbsp. of sugar (to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp. mirin
  • 1 Tbsp. sake
  • Dash of salt
  • Red food coloring

Cooking Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add salt and codfish and boil for ten minutes.
  2. Place the boiled codfish in cold water. Separate the flesh from the skin and bones. Wash the flesh under running cold water to remove fat.
  3. Wrap the washed flesh in a paper towel and thoroughly squeeze out the moisture. Flake the fish with fingertips. (Disregard flesh that cannot be flaked from the bone.)
  4. Put the sugar, mirin, and sake into a saucepan. Dilute a few drops of the food coloring, depending on the shade of pink you like, in a small amount of water. Add this liquid and the fish from Step 3. Mix while cooking over to low-to-medium heat till the liquid is gone. (Mixing is easier when four long cooking chopsticks are used.)
  5. When all the liquid is gone, you have the finished, fluffy Sakura denbu.

Gochiso Magazine, Nijiya Market

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