What is it?
Dashi is a soup base or stock which is the foundation for many Japanese dishes. Most elements of Japanese cuisine that require simmering, a soup, or cooking in stock will involve a dashi stock. It is made from Kombu, which is a dried seaweed, and Kastsuobushi, which is dried fish flakes. It is used to provide Umami in a dish, which is the fifth basic taste in Japanese cuisine; savory flavour. Japanese cooking is very much about balancing the five tastes perfectly and harmoniously.
How is it made?
The Kombu seaweed and the Kastuobushi fish flakes are placed in cold water then brought up to simmering. The dashi stock is then strained to provide a clear broth. However, since the 1960s many Japanese households have been using an instant dashi stock instead. The best Japanese restaurants will always make their stock from scratch, and Kombu is carefully sourced - some places in Japan specialise in aging very fine dried kombu.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can make dashi just using the kombu seaweed; this is called kombu dashi.
Other types of dashi include Niboshi Dashi, which is made from sardines, and Shiitake dashi, which is made from shiitake mushrooms and kombu dashi, the vegetarian variant made using only dried Kombu.
How is it used?
As mentioned before, Dashi stock imparts the fifth taste; umami, into Japanese dishes. It is the basis for miso soup when homemade, and is often used as the stock for making ramen noodle soups. Dashi can also be used as a cooking liquor for meats that need to be cooked in water.
Types of Dashi
Liquid Dashi Concentrate
Shiro Dashi comes in liquid form and is usually concentrated up to ten times, so a little goes a long way. Sushi Stu's personal favourite is Ninben Shiro Dashi which has a wonderfully smoky flavour and is simple as can be to make. Simply add 10 x water to shiro dashi concentrate and gently warm to 90 deg (don't boil or you'll loose some flavour). This stock is now the perfect base for miso soup, ramen and a plethora of other tasty dishes.
A simple to use dehydrated version of liquid dashi that can keep fresh in a sealed container for a long time. This is one of the most popular ways to make dashi as the standard and taste levels can be maintained for continuity in restaurants.
Home Made Dashi
Made the traditional way by simmering bonito flakes (Katsuobushi) and Kombu kelp. Oce made fresh, this can be frozen for use later or kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 5 days.
Made in a similar way to regular dashi using kombu, but without the katsuobush flakes. You can also get powdered kombu dashi and liquid kombu dashi if you want a ready made variety.
- 8 Cups of Dashi stock contain just 35 calories, making dishes like miso soup filling but great for dieting.
- Dashi stock contains a little iron and calcium, mainly because of the kombu seaweed. Add wakame seaweed to any dish with dashi stock as a vegetable and the dish becomes a great source of iron! You can also get kombu seaweed supplements.
- Kombu is also used sometimes to flavour rice when used in sushi.
- Katsuobushi refers to dried, smoked skipjack tuna.
- The Japanese sometimes place katsuobushi flakes on top of hot dishes like pizza, this is because the heat makes the thin flakes move and appear to 'dance' which is visually appealing.
- Katsuobushi is also used to top takoyaki and okonomiyaki.