Dashi (page 65) 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 this cuisine. Dashi can be based on kelp (kombu), dried bonito (katsuobushi), dried baby sardines (niboshi), dried shiitake mushrooms, or a combination of two or three of the ingredients.
I have a package of instant hon dashi in my cupboard for days I’m just too busy, but it is not something I use often. Once you’ve tasted homemade fresh dashi, you’ll not be satisfied with chemical laden commercially processed powders and liquid concentrates! In an hour, you can make a gallon of stock and there’s no greasy burned stuff to wash off the pots. And it freezes wonderfully.
What to have ready for making dashi:
- measuring cup for water
- measuring cup for katsouobushi
- deep strainer and 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
Kombu Dashi (Vegetarian Stock)
4 to 6-inch square of kombu
2 quarts water
Kombu (kelp) is dark green, almost black. Do not wipe the white dust off! Do not overcook the kombu (or the katsuobushi) or your stock will be cloudy and bitter. Put the kelp into a pot and add the cold water. Bring the water and kombu almost to a boil over medium heat. It should take 10 to 15 minutes.
- This tip is not in my book, but I’ve found it works well if I remember early in the day: soak the kombu in cool water for between 30 minutes to 3 hours. The water takes on a green color and the kelp softens and expands. The flavor of the fish stock is great when you start like this!
Immediately before the water reaches a boil, remove the kombu, and either discard it or save it for preparing “second fish stock.” At this point, you can use this as a vegetarian stock. If you are making fish-stock, continue reading.
Ichiban Dashi (First Fish Stock)
- Kombu Dashi, still on heat
- 1 cup packed katsuobushi (bonito fish flakes)
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.
Nibon Dashi (Second Fish 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. Discard the kombu and fish flakes.
Sometimes, I’ve saved the kombu in the freezer for making pickles.
These stocks will keep tightly covered in the fridge for 4 days. Or freeze.
6 thoughts on “Dashi”
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Thanks so much for your blog. It is great that you have found the energy and enthusiam for this project and then to blog to help the rest of us too. I just returned from a holiday in Japan and I loved the food so much. I really enjoy reading your recipes and tips, and I have tried out a few of them myself and started to get into it!.
With the dashi, I don’t really get how the 1st & 2nd stock can really be that different – it seems like quite a lot of effort if there isn’t much of a difference in taste – excuse my ignorance on this, but from your experience is it worth the effort?
Thanks Tess, keep up the good cooking and blogging work.
I’m glad you are enjoying my blog. Lucky you having a holiday in Japan! I hope to visit there someday.
I’ve never tried to just make a double-batch of dashi, though, so I don’t know what it would be like.
The two dashi stocks are very similar, but ichiban dashi (first stock) is very clear and fresh. Nibon dashi is a bit cloudier; I squeeze the juice out of the fukin. Think of how re-using a tea-bag is: it’s the same but not. The taste difference is subtle, but both are better than the powders. Because I use the same 2 pots for both stocks, and rinse the fukin to use again for the second stock, it’s not really making much mess. And it doesn’t seem to me to take very long.
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It took a while, but I just made dashi for the first time in years with kombu and bonito fish flakes I brought back home to Mexico from a trip to the States. My kitty is very interested in the kitchen smells. Saved kombu for pickles? Very intriguing.
My cats also like the fish flakes. Not so much interest in the finished dashi, though.
Pickles, as in the quick easy Japanese tsukemono:
Garlic in Soy Sauce
Cauliflower-tsukemono with Citrus and Kombu
Or this (though it’s better with un-used kombu)
(there are others, but I guess I’ve not posted about them!)
Also, just because it seems such a waste to toss out the kombu, especially if you taste it and it still has flavor, I add it to soup stocks, or use it when cooking beans.