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Dashi is essential for Japanese cooking. It is usually a clear, non-oily fish stock used for soups, simmered dishes, salad dressings, and marinades. Dashi provides the subtle umami that is the foundation of Japanese cuisine. Dashi can be made with kelp (kombu), dried bonito (katsuobushi), dried baby sardines (niboshi), dried shiitake mushrooms, or a combination of two or three of these ingredients.
What to have ready for making dashi:
♥ bowls or covered plastic containers for soaking dried ingredients
♥ measuring cups for water
♥ measuring cup for katsouobushi
♥ deep strainer lined with a
♥ fukin (cotton kitchen cloth, or triple layer of cheese cloth. Wet the cloth and squeeze out the water so it’s damp.)
♥ 2 pots large enough for the amount of stock
♥ freezer containers, mostly 1 quart size, but it’s useful to freeze some in 1 and 2 cup sizes and even cubes
(First Katsubushi Stock)
♥ two 4-inch squares kombu
♥ 2 quarts water
♥ 1 cup packed katsuobushi (bonito fish flakes)
Soak the kombu in cool water for between 30 minutes to over night. With the longer soak, the water takes on a green color and the kelp softens and expands a lot.
Put the kelp into a pot and add the soaking liquid plus cold water to make 2 quarts. Bring the water and kombu almost to a boil over medium heat. It should take 10 to 15 minutes.
Immediately before the water reaches a boil, remove the kombu. (Save it for preparing “second fish stock” below.) If you boil the kombu, the stock will become bitter and cloudy.
Immediately after removing the kelp, add the katsuobushi all at once. Wait 10 seconds (until the water comes back to a boil—my stove doesn’t have a lot of guts so it takes more like 20 seconds). Turn the heat off, skim foam, and let it steep for 2 minutes. Strain the stock through your sieve lined with the fukin. Don’t squeeze. Discard the bonito flakes, or use them to make Second Fish Stock. Pour the stock into your freezer containers. Rinse the first pot and proceed.
(Second Katsubushi Stock)
♥ Kombu saved from above
♥ katsuobushi saved from above
♥ 2 quarts water
Combine the above ingredients. Rinse the cloth if not all the fish flakes came off, then put it in the strainer over the second pot. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Strain. Freeze or use the stock immediately.
Discard the used katsubushi, and use the kombu as shown here.
update 10 February 2014
click for a printable recipe