Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

The history of dashi

A delicacy throughout time

Dashi is a class of soup and cooking stock used as ingredients in Japanese cuisine. Dashi forms the base for miso soup, clear broth, noodle broth and many kinds of simmering liquid.
The most common form of dashi is a simple broth or fish stock which is made by heating water that contains kombu (this is edible kelp) and kezurikatsuo to near boiling, you then strain the resultant liquid.


Homemade dashi is not very popular these days and granulated or liquid instant dashi has been replaced in households in favour of the homemade variety. Instant dashi has a stronger and less subtle flavour, due to the use of chemical flavour enhancers.


Dashi is finding a place in the kitchens of many Western Chefs these days, Eric Ripert the head chef at eLe Bernardinf says this about dashi gItfs basically water, but fantastically perfumed waterh, he uses it as an ingredient to make gelee, finishes off mushrooms with the stock and brushes it on to raw fish before layering on olive oil and citrus. gThe dashi is invisible, but it brings more depthh.


Jonathon Benno is the chef of cuisine at French Restaurant ePer Sef, Jonathon uses the stock to make excellent quasi Japanese dishes, liked a grilled Hamachi belly canape with dashi poured table side. Other chefs add dashi to light mayonnaise, they caramelise sirloin with it, grill foie gras and add to slow cooked snapper. The flavour can go anywhere.


Dashi is a versatile ingredient that simply means estockf in Japan. As we all know stock is just flavoured water, so where did stock (and therefore Dashi) originate?
Stock was originally thought to have been invented in the 1600fs where people collected their worst mushrooms, washed them carefully and boiled them with their skin and stems on, boiled with a bouqet of herbs, onion, cloves and roast meat and seasoned well with salt. After it had been put through a strainer, it was put into a pot and used. In the 1800s general stock came about, this was the pricinple of all soups and sauces which then follow right through until today. Stocks would be used to make soups instead of just plain water. General stock is made with beef, veal and any fresh meat and bones.


Japanese Dashi remains slightly different from regular western style stocks where traditionally when making Dashi the ingredients of fresh meat are not used and instead, dried packet fish is used. The Japanese forms of dashi offer excellent health benefits and a subtley of taste that compliments the common foods eaten in traditional Japanese cuisine.
If you peruse through a Japanese cookbook, it will quickly become obvious to you that without dashi, most of the recipes could not be executed.
Dashi is one of the most commonly used ingredients in Japanese cooking.


Cooks with traditional French training will wonder where the piles of bones come into play, or how it's even possible to make a stock in under a half-an-hour. The simplicity of dashi is indeed one of its most amazing features. It really can be made in thirty minutes from start to finish and requires just two ingredients:kelp (kombu) and dried bonito fish (a relative of the tuna).


That being said, it takes a bit of practice to know when to remove the kombu and bonito in order to extract the right amount of flavor. Plus, there's straining involved. Any recipe that calls for a strainer can't be entirely effortless.


Unlike a meat stock, dashi is light in body and adds a subtle, distinct oceanic flavour to any dishes. Vegetables and meats can be simmered in the stock to add depth


Since chefs and home cooks have stopped making their own dashi at home and it is now more common to buy powdered or granulated dashi, people have to be careful with the additional added ingredients. Like anything these days, powdered dashi can contain additives and preservatives. However, the main ingredient to watch out for in dashi is MSG.


MSG makes everything taste better but is something that the extremely health conscious will avoid. For anyone concerned regarding additives or trying to pursue a more natural diet any store bought dashi mixes that use this enhancer should be avoided, although it is rare find to be able to track down one that doesnft contain MSG ? they do exist, especially if you whip up your own in the kitchen at home. What exactly is MSG?


To help you understand the MSG component here is a quick explanation of why MSG can be a concern to some people. MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most abundant naturally occurring non-essential amino acids. It has been classified by the U.S Food and Drug Administration as generally recognised as safe. MSG is used to improve the overall taste of certain foods, adding MSG means lowering the salt that is put into certain foods, as we all know excessive salt is a bad thing that can lead to instant side effects or on very rare occurrences complications later in life. MSG is safe when eaten at customary levels, but you have to keep a watchful eye over it as studies have shown that excess consumption can lead to headaches, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, nausea and vomiting. Some tend to avoid MSG rich foods because they are sensitive to the additive, others donft see any side effects. Monitored and ingested in small doses MSG is categorised as perfectly safe.


With the amount that people use Dashi in Japan, if using a powdered version it is best to keep a mindful eye over just how much you are consuming, if you have an MSG intolerance it is absolutely best that you make yours at home. Like anything in history, tracing steps right back to when the product was first invented is the way to go. Back hundreds of years ago when dashi was first made and packaged products werenft available you wouldnft have found MSG in them, so why ingest it now. Take a lesson from your ancestors and get in the kitchen and make it!