Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dashi

Shaved dried bonito is one of the main ingredients of dashi*
Dashi is one of the pillars of Japanese cooking, rubbing shoulders with shoyu and mirin as an essential of the Japanese pantry. It is a stock made from dried bonito tuna and sea kelp that helps infuse Japanese cuisine with umami, and forms the base for almost all Japanese broths and soups.

It is used in miso soup, simmered dishes, noodle dipping sauces, even omelets, to impart a simple savoriness. Dashi is one of the foundations of Japanese cusine, like b├ęchamel to the French and salsa to Latino cooking. To me, it is like homemade poultry stock; so simple yet nuanced in flavor. And unlike homemade chicken stock, it is super easy and fast to make from scratch.

I've got the little jar of Hondashi in my fridge*
The most common type of dashi is the aforementioned kombu (sea kelp) and katsuobushi (dried skipjack tuna flakes) combination, but there are also vegetarian version that use kombu or shiitake mushrooms, as well as versions using dried baby sardines.

Nowadays, even in Japan, it is more common to use dashi granules than making it from scratch. These granules are usually stronger flavored than traditional dashi, and depending on the quality, can have harsh tastes of salt and MSG.

I won't lie and say that I always make my dashi from scratch. We all know by now that I am hilariously to-a-fault lazy. Come on, I made the KFC Katsu Kare Donburi and even blogged about it. But really, making dashi is easy and cheap, and the best thing is the ingredients to make it last a long time if stored properly and it is really simple to make.

packages of kombu and katsuobushi

Ichiban Dashi

3 cups cold water
1 4" square piece of kombu (do not rinse, just wipe off any debris)
~1/2 cup of katsuobushi

Soak the kombu in the water for 20 minutes. Heat the water and the kombu until the water is about to boil, then remove the kombu. Once the water has reached a boil, throw in the katsuobushi and turn off the heat. Let the mixture stand 5 minutes and then strain the stock. Do not stir or you risk making the dashi cloudy. It is now ready to use. You can refrigerate it for several days.
Kombu*

Niban Dashi is when the kombu and katsuobushi are reused a second time by adding them to more water and gently simmering for ~15 minutes before straining. This will yield a less strongly flavored stock that is cloudier, but great for getting the most use out of your kombu and katsuobushi. Kombu and katsuobushi last a long time in their dried form, but not when they have been previously made into dashi, so if you are making niban dashi, make it right after the first dashi.

Seriously, that's it. Oh, and if you have pets, especially cats, they LOVE katsuobushi. Watch out about leaving it on the countertop.

Note: all starred photos courtesy of wikipedia, because my camera was being grumpy! They will be replaced with my own photos once I roundhouse kick my camera into submission.

Recipes that use dashi:
Gyudon
Hiroshima-Style Okonomiyaki
Kaki Kohaku Namasu
Katsudon
Negima Nabe
Oden
Ozoni
Tamago-Toji Spam Donburi
Tomato Miso Soup
Toshikoshi Soba 
Tsukimi Ramen
Una-Tama Don: Egg Eel Donburi
Zaru Soba 

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