Basic Japanese Cooking: Simple Method of Extracting “Dashi” Stock
“Dashi” or soup stock is the most fundamental of basic Japanese cooking. At the same time, it is the essential aspect of Japanese cooking as it can have great affect on the flavors of the finished dish. It is not an overstatement when we say that dashi played a big part in helping “washoku” or traditional Japanese cuisine being added to the list of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
In this article, we introduce the fundamental aspect of this washoku, the process of extracting dashi. Once you learn the method you should be able to make Japanese cooking on your own at any time.
What is Dashi?
Dashi refers to the “umami” or the almost mythical “fifth taste” of glutamates and nucleotides added to the four basic flavors (sweet, salty, sour and bitter) that the human taste buds are equipped to experience. This umami is extracted from ingredients such as kombu (kelp), bonito flakes, dried sardine, or dried shiitake mushroom. The umami is extracted either from a single ingredient or a blend of several ingredients.
In cooking, the dashi brings out the flavors of the other ingredients, as well as provide a base for layering several flavors. It is often used in a variety of dishes such as stewed dishes, soup dishes, and marinades.
Furikake: Magical flakes that make rice delicious
Types of Dashi
Among the types of dashi there are “ichiban dashi (first dashi)” and “niban dashi (second dashi)” extracted from kombu and dried bonito.
1. Ichiban Dashi
The ichiban dashi has a lighter color, as well as a simple and delicate flavor. It is suited for dishes such as clear soups and chawanmushi (literally “tea cup steam”, it is a savory egg custard dish) in which the flavors of the dashi make up the main flavors of the dish.
2. Niban Dashi
The niban dashi is made from further extracting the flavors from kombu and bonito flakes which have already been extracted once to get the ichiban dashi. In some cases additional bonito flakes are added to get the niban dashi. The color of the dashi is darker and it is used for stewed dishes and miso soup.
There is also a method of extracting dashi that combines the two types. The below is a lesson on the simple method of extracting dashi that combines the ichiban dashi and niban dashi. It is a simple method that anyone can try.
1 Liter Water
10 grams Kelp (kombu)
30 grams Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
1. This time, we will use a type of kombu called “dashi kombu” of the many types of kombu that are offered in the market. For the bonito flakes, we will use the thin shavings. If you find that the kombu is not clean, you can gently wipe off any dirt with a dishcloth being careful not to remove the white powder as this is part of the umami.
2. Pour 1 liter of water and kombu in a pot. If you have time, soaking the kombu for 30 minutes helps the umami to seep out.
3. Let the pot simmer on the stove over low heat for about 10 minutes. When you start to see tiny bubbles, remove the kombu before the water comes to a boil. When the water is boiled with kombu in it, the finished stock will have the fragrant aroma of kombu.
*If you soak the kombu from the day before, remove the kombu before heating the water.
4. Once you take the kombu out of the pot, continue to bring the water to a boil, then turn off the heat to add 30 grams of the bonito flakes.
5. Turn the heat back to medium heat and bring to a boil. Once the mixture boils, lower the heat, skim the foam off the liquid and turn off the heat after a few minutes. This foam comes from the strong flavors that come out of the ingredients. It floats as small white foam so make sure to remove using utensils such as a ladle.
6. Once you turn the heat off, the bonito flakes will start to sink. Once this happens, strain gently using a sieve. The resulting colored liquid is the dashi. Cool the liquid and store in the refrigerator. Use within 2-3 days.
Dashi that is extracted from natural foods is good for you and can help create a mild flavored dish that makes the best of ingredients used in the dish. There are many people who like the flavors of Japanese ramen and udon noodles. Well, the soups of these noodle dishes are also made from dashi, which is why it tastes so delicious.
Cooking that uses dashi tends to have richer flavors. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Japanese food so we encourage you to try using dashi for cooking of other countries as well.
We used this dashi to make miso soup and tsukudani, a dish boiled in soy sauce.
Japanese Washoku Recipe: Miso Soup and Tsukudani Made Using Dashi and Leavings