Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

How to make dashi

A simple broth

Dashi has got to be the simplest dish, EVER!


To those who are unfamiliar with dashi, let me solve your uncertainty. Dashi simply means eStockf in Japanese, yep, thatfs all. And it is even easier to make than western style stocks.


Dashi is a class of soup and cooking stock used as ingredients in Japanese dishes. 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, and can be used for making excellent dishes.


Despite dashi being very simply to make, these days it is more commonly purchased in granulated powder form and mixed with water to replicate this simple homemade dish that became popular in Japan around the 1800s.


Dashi is a clear seas stock which when prepared correctly doesnft even taste fishy. Whilst you may originally be intimidated by getting the mixture right itfs actually very easy to make, dashi is even easier to make than chicken stock. If you have twenty spare minutes and the necessary ingredients (this may require a trip to an Asian grocer.. but fear not, there are only three ingredients!) you can definitely make dashi, and once you do ? you will be adding it to every dish you make. Why? you ask, dashi is like water, but often referred to as perfumed water, it packs a great flavour and a lot of Japanese dishes canft even be replicated without adding Dashi.


Some of the instant Dashi mixtures arenft too bad, but many of them contain MSG (monosodium glutamate) and some undesirable chemicals. However, chances are that once you have made dashi from scratch and subsequent delicious dishes, youfll never want to go back because the flavour is so much better, it is much more healthier for you and all it will cost you is a couple of extra minutes in the kitchen.


To make Dashi you will require the following three ingredients:

  1. .Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes ? part of the tuna family) Niboshi (Dried baby sardines) dried shitake mushrooms (You can add one or more of these ingredients, depending on how you like it to taste)
  2. Kombu ? a type of kelp that is harvested and dried in the sun. Kombu is rich with vitamins and minerals, protein and dietary fibre.
  3. .Water ? need we say more


When making dashi, there really is not much you need to do, because the ingredients do all the work for you. You start out by soaking a piece of kombu in some water, you have got to steep out as much flavour as you can out of the kombu. Once you have done that pop it on the stove and cook until just before the water starts to boil, take it off the heat and add your katsuobushi and let everything sit and steep for a few minutes. How easy is this so far right? Great dishes can come from something this easy.


Pop the stock through a lined strainer (best and most accessible way is to put it through a strainer) into a clean container and its ready to use to make delicious dishes. At this point you are probably thinking there has GOT to be more, right? Well no, not really ? aside from using it in your cooking, you are actually done ? you have just made dashi.


Try a few different combinations out using shiitake mushrooms and dried fish, you can use one, two or all three of these ingredients to get various flavour combinations for your stock, and you will soon work out which one is your favourite and makes the best dishes.


So how do you go ahead and start using this miracle broth? Well, here is what a couple of top chefs suggest:


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 fabulous dishes such as gelee, he 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.


However, that might be a bit too much for the innocent at home cook so why not try using it in a simpler way which is very common throughout Japanese households. Dashi forms the base for miso soup, clear broth, noodle broth and as a simmering liquid for any dish.
Miso soup is probably the one you are nodding your head thinking gYES, I know that, I know what that ish ? to make miso soup all you need is dried seaweed, tofu, miso paste, spring onions, mushrooms and of course the magical dashi. I think probably just about anyone could make this delicious dish for a nice wintery evening. Give it a shot using the dashi that you are going to make (right?)


Since chefs and home cooks have stopped making their own dashi at home for their dishes 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 (which we touched on a little earlier).


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 brought 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.


Do yourself a favour and head to the Asian grocers, buy the ingredients and make your own, if kept in an airtight mason jar it can last just as long as the powdered granules. Be daring, add some dashi to your next dish.