Dashi ritual

Posted on November 22, 2013 at 8:30 AM

Konbu seaweed

When I cook at home, I don't use too much salt, cream, cheese, or oily sauces and dressings. I use dashi. It's the fragrant stock that forms the base of miso soup and seasoning for many Japanese dishes. The most popular ingredients for making dashi are dried bonito flakes and konbu seaweed. When you combine konbu and bonito flakes, the natural occuring amino acids in the konbu and bonito flakes have a synergistic effect on the umami scale.

When I was growing up in Japan, my grandmother would patiently shave the block of dried bonito to make dashi. The shaven curls of bonito smelt of the sea. The flavor of freshly shaved bonito flakes is tantalizingly good, but most cooks these days use pre-shaven bonito flakes sold in packages. While pre-shaven flakes don't compare in flavor to the freshly shaven ones, they are pretty darn good. I store bonito flakes in the fridge and try to use it within a week. 

Basic Dashi Recipe

Makes 3/1/2 cups, or 4 servings of stock to make miso soup.  Dashi will keep fresh for a week 3-5 days in the refrigerator, so you can make it in advance and just add miso paste and vegetables for quick breakfast of miso soup. 

4 cups water, 4 cups of loosely packed bonito flakes, One 3-inch piece of konbu seaweed. 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 bring to a boil.  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. Then add bonito flakes. Do not sitr. Let stand for 3-5 minutes to let the flakes steep. Then strain the dashi them through a very fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towel. Don't stir or press the bonito flakes because it will cloud the dashi.  Discard the bonito flakes and konbu seaweed or cook them in 4 cups of water to make a secondary dashi. I slice the left over konbu and use it in my salads and pickles to add umami.

Categories: Basics - Broths, Sauces, and Marinades

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