Pink Fish Flakes (Sakura Denbu)

Sakura Denbu

  • By
    Takako Gamazawa
  • Time
    15 minutes
Pink Fish Flakes (Sakura Denbu)

Have you heard of sakura denbu? These wonderfully bright pink fish flakes are commonly eaten with rice and are a fantastic way to brighten up the dinner table or lunch box.

They take their name from the lush pink cherry blossoms, or ‘sakura’, that bloom throughout Japan during springtime. The word ‘denbu’ means ‘men working in rice fields’ or ‘rough and country-like’. People started calling this type of food ‘denbu’ as the flakes actually come from expensive fish such as bream or cod, so preparing it in this way was seen as a lack of understanding of its value. That’s all in the past now though and this negative connotation is no more. These days sakura denbu is enjoyed by people all over Japan.

Sakura denbu can be readily purchased at supermarkets around Japan, but the store-bought version can often be a touch too sweet, so why not try making some homemade flakes to suit your own taste? You can make them as sweet or as mellow as you like. You can also dial up the pinkness to your own liking.

These dainty flakes are the perfect accompaniment to white or vinegered rice and give a colourful lift to your sushi. What’s more, there are plenty of natural alternatives if you'd prefer not to use artificial food colouring. Or you can of course skip the colouring completely.

Nutrition per Serving
  • Calories
  • Sodium
  • Fat
  • Protein
  • Carbs
  • Fiber
  • Cholesterol


  • 7.05  oz Cod fillet
  • tbsp Sugar
  • tbsp Sake
  • as needed Red food coloring


Step 1

Bring water to a boil and boil the cod fillets for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bones and skin.
(remove the non-flesh parts if any.)

Pink Fish Flakes (Sakura Denbu)

Step 2

Dry the cod with paper towel and place in a frying pan. Use a whipper or chopsticks to loosen the flesh.

Pink Fish Flakes (Sakura Denbu)

Step 3

When the meat begins to loosen, add sake, sugar, salt and food coloring dissolved in water, and cook over medium to low heat so as not to burn.

Pink Fish Flakes (Sakura Denbu)

Step 4

To finish off, turn the heat down to low and mix well to release remaining moisture.


Cook gently over low heat to break up the fibers and make fluffy sakura-denbu.

Japanese Local Culinary Expert

Takako worked as a cook in a hotel Japanese restaurant and a nursery school food service. Currently, in addition to holding cooking classes in Tokyo, she is also involved in a wide range of activities, including cooking classes for corporate events, instructors, recipe development, column writing, and food education classes at elementary schools. While visiting major production areas around the country and researching local cuisine and food culture, she concentrates on developing recipes that incorporate the charms and essences of local regions.