命の出汁 – broth of vigour

an adventure in japanese cuisine, an obsession with the izakaya


Leave a comment

dashi – the broth of vigour

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.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Litre of water
  • a piece of konbu 3″ x 3″(dried kelp)
  • 30g katsuobushi (dried bonito shavings)

Preparation:

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 throw 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.


Leave a comment

one cd, one sushi and one beer

Forgive the George Thorogood reference but I couldnt get that song out of my head as I was climbing up the series of escalators in the Tower Records building in Shibuya. The Japanese market seems to be incredibly big on almost everything and for me this provides the opportunity to get some good Jazz music. Most of the 6th floor is dedicated to Jazz and believe me it is a huge range. My haul this time was smallish (4 cds and 3 SACD’s) and then I went in search of a late afternoon brunch.

sixthfloortower

I felt like some sushi. Not cheap sushi, not Jiro sushi, but some good sushi. I wandered a little around a couple of blocks in Shibuya and say a sign on the side of the Seibu building that mentioned a sushi place on the 12th Floor (along with a whole pile of other squiggles I dont understand). The pictures look good which unlike in western food advertisements normally means the food will be similar. The Japanese take everything from a streetside yakitori to 3 Michelin star dining almost as seriously.

Wandering up the myriad of escalators to the 354th floor (ok the twelth but I was almost getting motion sickness from the circular wandering) I came across a couple of sushi restaurants. One was a sushi train and while the food didnt look so bad the chef with the microphone constantly screaming about what was available didn’t really gel as the quiet lunch I was hoping for.

Around the corner I encountered a far more traditional (and silent) sight with a noren hanging over a door and a the warm indication of “English Menu Inside”. WOO-HOO 😉

door

I ordered one of their lunch specials, the larger one, as it was my breakfast and my lunch. The set came with two items called “custard” and “clear soup”. As my luck would have it I was able to be seated at the counter and watch the entire extravaganza.

makingmysushi

The making of the sushi was enjoyable for me to watch. A few interesting touches included the making of a small roll with two fillings where the sushi chef cut right down the centre between the two fillings he put into my roll; no tuna in the wierd grass section, no grass with my tuna. Skills!

lunch

The lunch plate looked spectacular and sat very nicely with a cold draft beer.

Another neat installment was how the raw octopus was cut to make the sushi topping; from a relatively cylindrical piece of sashimi grade octopus tentacle the chef cut almost all the way through, flipped it over and cut another piece almost all the way through, and one more time. The result being a single piece of octopus to lay on top of the rice for sushi.

tako

The clear soup was a very simple but incredibly tasty dashi with some tofu and wakame seawead.

ashi

The final and surprise package of lunch was a cup of green tea with a small dessert. The surprise was in the desert both in its existance (probably not looking at the set menu to realize) and the flavour; balanced green tea taste with an extra punch of green tea from the match powder coating the cubes.

greenteajellyJPG

A great haul of cd’s and a great lunch. Just for kicks have a look at the chef slicing small red raddish with a yanagiba, absolutely incredible and he still had all his fingers. 😉


1 Comment

Nobu’s Vegetarian Cookbook

While by no means a vegetarian, several times a year as Orthodox Christians we go vegan during the fasting periods. Given the prevalence of dashi in everything I have usually relied on western vegan recipes during this time. As we come up on the Nativity Fast I decided to look into some Japanese Vegetarian cookbooks and try out something new.

First I tripped upon Kansha by Elizabeth Andoh. I have one of her other cookbooks Washoku, and while I really like her research and her writing it just doesn’t cut the mustard with my “inspiration index”. Basically, nowhere near enough photos.

So I fell back on my old favourite inspiration, Nobu Matsuhisa with Nobu’s Vegetarian Cookbook. Very much styled on his other recipe books which have provided me with great dreams over the years it is filled with great recipes and delightful photography. There are a myriad of interesting dishes to try, most of them not difficult at all with access to the right ingredients. Different recipes for Dashi that are very vegan are included and used throughout most of the dishes.

Many of the dishes use the vegetarian stock for cooking or marinating in a traditional Japanese approach. There are also variations on classic Nobu twists such as using the “New Style Oil” approach, that he pioneered with sashimi to make it more palatable for the raw fish skeptic, to attack beautiful fruit tomatoes. There is a variation one of my favourite asparagus dishes, previously with egg sauce and salmon roe (Ikura) this time with a more healthy approach as well as vegan using a miso based sauce and long onions as garnish. The front cover surprised me when I got to the recipe, vegetable sushi (sure) but vegetables are “cured” with konbu.

There are some unfortunate recipes that no doubt are inspired by his clients; a proliferation of truffles used in many recipes are great but a little off the radar for many of us. Sure, they are vegan but incredibly expensive (and while legal in my fasting regimen defy the spirit of why it is done).

Overall a great inspiration book; many solid recipes but underlying techniques that can be migrated to other vegetables and ingredients. Oh, and he dips fruit tomatoes in chocolate, fabulous!!!!! Highly recommended and I hope to show you some of the recipes and techniques as I try them over the coming months.


Leave a comment

dashi – the broth of vigour

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.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Litre of water
  • a piece of konbu 3″ x 3″(dried kelp)
  • 30g katsuobushi (dried bonito shavings)

Preparation:

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.