let's start with the basics

I've had a lot of people ask me about Japanese food lately. And I wish I could have all of you meet my family in Japan. It'll change your life. Healthy food is their cultural lifestyle, not something they're deliberately doing. And guess what! It's delicious! So I want to do a series for you. And we're starting with the basic of basics in Japanese cooking. Dashi. (pronounced "dah-shee" ... sort of. That's the best I can do without actually saying it for you)
 Dashi is a Japanese stock made with dried bonito flakes, kombu kelp, and water. And really, don't let the ingredient list scare you. You can find these ingredients really easily in any Asian market, and I promise they aren't fishy or scary or as unappetizing as you might think. In fact, the term "umami" was created because of this very basic Japanese dish. It was delicious enough to earn a 5th taste:)

I use dashi as a base for soup or just to simmer something in--every time we have Japanese food for dinner. So I thought it was a good place to start.
There are 2 stages of dashi you can get out of one set of ingredients. You can make the "first" dashi, which is more pure and has the best flavor. I set that aside for more delicate dishes like clear soups and simple simmered dishes that rely heavily on the clean flavor of the dashi. The "second" dashi is when you use the same amount of water with the already used, strained bonito flakes and kombu. This is what I use for miso soup and less delicate dishes.

basic dashi
makes about 4 cups (8 cups if you make second dashi)

4 1/2 cups water (another 4 1/2 cups for second dashi)
2 cups dried bonito flakes
1 4x4 inch (or smaller, if you like a lighter flavor) sheet of kombu
  1. for first dashi: Fill a medium saucepan with 4 1/2 cups water. Add the kombu. (do not wipe off or rinse off the white powder, this is where all the extra nutrition is!) Heat over high heat until the water almost reaches a boil. remove the kombu and add the bonito flakes. Bring the liquid to a boil and immediately strain the bonito flakes with a fine mesh sieve. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze in small portions.
  2. for second dashi: Add the bonito flakes and kombu back into the saucepan. Add 4 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and discard the solids. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or freeze in small portions.


Katie said...

I love your blog, Lillian! It is so beautiful. Is this the base to miso soup? I've been wanting to try and make it from scratch because it is so utterly delicious.

Kristina said...

Wow I am so excited for this!