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Dashi - Basic Stock 101

Posted on September 30, 2009 at 2:50 AM

DASHI 


My Japanese staples on the butcher table.

Dried chili peppers, dried shitake mushrooms,

dried kombu seaweed, dried bonito flakes,

brown rice and white rice. 


I am feeling good about myself because I made a big batch of Dashi last night. That's what I do on Sundays or Mondays to start the week right.  I bought a lovely block of Meiji Tofu from Granada Market in West LA so with that and the fresh dashi, I am in good shape to cook.  Miso soup, definitely.


Dashi is the foundation of Japanese cooking.  No matter how simple it can be to make dashi, if you don't pay attention or if you rush, you can mess it up and ruin the rest of your dishes.  


I hate to admit but many Japanese people are getting a bit lazy these days and relying more on prepared dashi powders and dashi bags.  I have some organic dashi bags in the pantry myself.  However, small,  it's not ecological to use these broth one-time use bags when it is easy to make Dashi from scratch. The flavor of a freshly made dashi is far superior than the commercially prepared dashi stocks. It only takes three ingredients to make the classic seafood based dashi - water, dried konbu seaweed and dried bonito flakes.  These ingredients are easy to find at the Japanese markets.


Making Dashi is similar to the practice of brewing green tea. Be gentle with the ingredients. If you pour boiling hot water over green tea, you can ruin the flavor. Same with Dashi stock

The thing to remember most is timing  - to pluck the kombu seaweed out of the water before it reaches the boiling point. This way, the stock doesn't get fishy.  Similar step with the Bonito flakes. Let the boiling water cool down for a minute  or two before you add the flakes into the liquid. The idea is to brew these ingredients slowly, in temperature that are below the boiling point, especially the Bonito flakes, which likes it lower. What you strive for is a clear amber like color broth that smells like sea breeze.


I keep my dried Bonito Flakes in a Glass jar with a lid.The 100 gram bag will make three or four batches of soup. Bonito Flakes are sensitive to moisture so if they start to look gray and flat, throw ithem out. If the reject is not too old, give them to your cat as I do. My cat comes up to me and meows and purrs when I am making Dashi stock. She also loves Nori seaweed. I think she was Japanese in her previous life.


Here is the first key ingredient for making Dashi stock.  

Cut Kombu seaweed.

This one measures 6-inches long




Use the widest, thickest piece of kombu seaweed you can find. The Kombu seaweed from Hokkaido is the king of Kombu seaweed. When you reconstitute the dried seaweed in water, it could expand to about four or five times in width. The reconstituted seaweed is maginificent to look at but slippery to handle.  So what I do is take the long dried piece and cut them up into smaller 6-inch pieces and store them in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and keep them handy. Notice with Kombu that there is often a thin film of white dust on top. Don't wash that off. It's what gives it Umami, the flavor. But there could be dust too so take a cotton cloth and wipe it dry before you use it. 


The second key ingredient for Dashi is Dried Bonito flakes.  Dried Bonito Flakes or Katsuo-bushi are made from shaven dried Bonito fish. My grandmother used to sit down in front of the television and patiently spend a good hour running the block of dried Bonito back and forth across the blade of the shaving tool (sort of looks like a plane) to make her own shavings. A Samurai saga would be a good show to watch if you wanted to get a box full. I own a plane myself but all I produce is saw dust. The plane is a piece of decoration at the moment.


Dried bonito flakes are sold in little 5 gram packets or big 100 grams (3.5 oz) bags. Get the big bag. The shavings are larger and shinier than the ones in the little packets.


Here is the second key ingredient:

Dried Bonito Flakes -Katsuo-bushi out of the package




 

 

BASIC DASHI RECIPE


To make Miso Soup, Suimono, Ohitashi  and other dashi based sauces, follow this recipe.  


Active Work Time: 5 minutes.   Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes


This will keep five days in the refrigerator, so you can make it the night before and just add miso paste and vegetables for quick breakfast of miso soup. You can find bonito flakes and dashi kombu at Japanese markets.   


1 piece dashi kombu (6 to 8 inches long)

 4 cups water

 2 cups dried bonito flakes (katsuo-bushi)


Using scissors, make several crosswise cuts in the konbu. This helps to extract the flavor during cooking. 


Place konbu and water in medium saucepan and let it stand 15 minutes. Cook on medium heat until water almost boils. Remove kombu just before water boils to avoid fishy odor.

 

When the water boils, turn off the heat. Add a 1/2 cup of cold water.  Let liquid cool down for a couple of minutes. Then gently add bonito flakes.  Do not sitr.   When bonito flakes have settled near the bottom, about 3 minutes, strain them through a very fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth and discard them. Don't stir the stock because it will cloud the dashi, which should have a light golden color.



Remove the kombu before the liquid comes to a boil.



  Do not stir the dried bonito flakes. Let the flakes steep in the

liquid.



A lovely  amber color dashi



Kitchen note: You can make a second batch of dashi by combing the used Bonito flakes and kombu seaweed in a saucepan with 4 cups of water.  Bring it to a boil over medium heat and then simmer for about 5 mintues.  Strain and discard bonito flakes and konbu seaweed.  Use the dashi for soups, seasoning, etc.  It will not be as flavorful as the first batch but it is good.  Also, you can eat the left over kombu.  It might feel a little rubbery but it good fiber.  You can slice it up thinly, pour some soysauce and eat it with rice.  


Categories: Basics - Broths, Sauces, and Marinades

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1 Comment

Reply Jonathan
11:11 AM on April 11, 2013 
I am grateful to you for posting this very clear and informative lesson! It has helped me to understand the importance of the proper preparation of honorable dashi.