DASHI: The Basic Foundation of Japanese Cuisine

Dashi

What Is Dashi?

Dashi is Japanese stock. It’s the foundation to all authentic Japanese cooking, a base for soups and sauces, and is essential for making Nimono. It’s the building block or the secret 5th flavor, Umami, full of amino acids that create inexplicable "deliciousness".  Dashi is comparable to soup stocks or bouillon in Western cooking or Tang in Chinese cuisine, however, there’s a fundamental difference. Dashi works by bringing out the flavor of the featured ingredients, with its own flavor fading into the background as it subtly enhances the overall taste of the dish. In Western and Chinese cooking, the flavors of the stock is more prominent, and is added to other flavors in the dish for effectively layering one taste upon another.

 

Making Dashi

Dashi is made by soaking and boiling marine and land products, extracting the flavor enhancing amino acids. Dashi itself is delicious, but when used in cooking, it draws out and balances the flavors of each individual ingredient.

Before any cooking starts in a Japanese kitchen, there’s someone making Dashi that will be used all throughout the business day.

 

BASIC DASHI PREPARATION

Konbu Dashi

Great for: Clear soups, Nabe hot pots, Sushi rice

Ingredients:
4 cups water
4 inch square Dashi Konbu

Preparation:

  1. Lightly wipe off surface of Dashi Konbu with a damp cloth. Do not wash.
  2. Add cold water into a saucepan. Place Konbu square into water, and let soak for one hour.
  3. Heat water using low heat. Just before water comes to a boil, remove Konbu and discard. Remove Dashi from heat source. Makes 4 cups.

 

Katsuo Dashi

Great for: Nimono, clear soups, Miso soup

Ingredients:
3-1/4 cups cold water
2/3 oz Hanakatsuo

Preparation:

  1. Heat water in saucepan using medium heat. Just before water comes to a boil, add Hanakatsuo.
  2. While water returns to boil, skim off foam that rises to the surface.
  3. When water reaches boiling point, remove from heat source. Cool a bit before straining Dashi with cheesecloth or paper towels. Makes about 3 cups.

 

Awase Dashi

Great for: Clear soups, Nimono, Noodle sauces

Ingredients:
4-1/4 cups cold water
4 inch square Dashi Konbu
2/3 oz Hanakatuso

Preparation:

  1. Prepare Konbu Dashi.
  2. Add Hanakatsuo to saucepan while returning back to a boil under medium heat. Skim off foam that rises to the surface.
  3. When Dashi returns to a boil, remove from heat source. Cool a bit before straining Dashi with cheesecloth or paper towels. Makes about 4 cups.

 

STORAGE AND SHELF LIFE

Western and Chinese DASHI are cooked longer than Japanese DASHI thus does not deteriorate quickly.  Katsuo and Konbu DASHI are best used in one day while the aroma is as its fullest.  If it cannot be used in one day, Ichiban DASHI can be used as NIBAN Dashi because while the aroma might have decreased, it still contains the same Umami essence.  Dashi can be stored in a tightly sealed container, in the refrigerator for two to three days, or frozen.