Dashi is the basis of almost everything in Japanese cooking. This is a very strong statement which until recently I would have slightly chuckled at. Sure, the majority of basic cooking stocks build upon dash, but so do most sauces and even batters for Takoyaki (octopus balls) and Okonomyaki (Japanese Pancakes).
The recipe below is the standard I use as a basis for my dashi. I have seen a plethora of different variations using the same ingredients just tweaking the amounts, more on that later on. For a vegetarian stock I would substitute 50g of dried shitake mushrooms for the bonito flakes.
- 1 Litre of water
- a piece of konbu 3″ x 3″(dried kelp)
- 30g katsuobushi (dried bonito shavings)
Put the water and the konbu in a saucepan and start up on a medium heat. Just prior to the water coming to the boil, pull out and discard the konbu and put in the katsuobushi, leaving until the water comes to the boil. When boiling begins turn off the heat and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes or until all the katsuobushi has sunk to the bottom of the pan. Then strain through a fine sieve or colander lined with muslin or paper towels.
From this base you can easily grab 200ml or so with a tablespoon of miso paste and your favourite garnishes (seaweed, long onions, tofu, etc) for a very delicious miso soup. It is so easy to through together (even if you make the dashi from scratch) you will wonder why you used the packet mixes in the first place (except maybe to take to work!!). Another variation that is a favourite of mine is to add a handful of frozen seafood (from a marinara mix or similar) as the dashi is being brought to the boil for a more filling soup.
The finished dashi will keep for a few days in the fridge, or you can freeze it. I have some jumbo cubed ice cube trays which are great for this. You may want a more condensed dashi if you are going to freeze it (to take up less space in the freezer); my approach for this is to double the amount of konbu and katsuobushi and leave it to steep for longer. That way you can add an equal amount of water to the melted ice cube and get a similar flavoured soup.
Other regular uses in my kitchen include:
- Cooking rice – replace the water you would use in your rice cooker with dashi
- Vegetables – turnips, daikon raddish, cabbage , eggplants or other vegetables to be used as part of a japanese dish can be boiled in dashi to add extra flavour before the rest of the dish is added
- Add to rice – one of my favourite lunches is to make some rice in a rice cooker, add some bits & pieces (long onions, any leftover or frozen seafood (defrosted of course) and other garnishes) and pour over hot dashi to make an almost porridge like consistency
Michiba’s Broth of Vigour
One of the key inspirations for this site, and hence the honour of the name comes from the original Iron Chef series (surprise). The first Iron Chef Japanese, Rokusaburo Michiba, had a trademark Dashi which was labelled “the broth of vigour” (in Japanese “Inochi no Dashi” or 命の出汁). He prepared this at the beginning of almost every battle, bringing water to the boil with Konbu in it then putting an absolute bucketload of katsuobushi into the pot.
This would make such an incredibly intense stock. I have overloaded my dashi a few times (no where near this extent) when I wanted to make a rich sauce base but I find you end up with a little too smoky a flavour for my liking using it this way just for a soup stock.
Anyway, dashi is easy and quick to put together from long life ingredients. Try it, you’ll never want to go back to the packet mix and it will never go to waste.