Let’s make some Dashi!

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Fresh veggies and protein … plus …

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… noodles … plus …

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… dashi stock … equals a freakin’ fantastic bowl of noodle soup, the perfect antidote to chilly winter weather.

But let me digress for a second: One of my goals in 2010 was to improve my Japanese culinary skills. As far as 2010 resolutions went learning Japanese cuisine fell far to the wayside in favor of studying and sleeping. Goofy, I know.

So I’m trying again in 2011.

I wanted to start off with dashi, a soup stock that is a cornerstone in Japanese cuisine.

And you know what? It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

Who knew?

First, what exactly is dashi?

It’s a broth made with dried kelp and dried tuna. There you have it, all you need are 3 ingredients to make a great umami-infused (savory) soup base.

Now, there are a lot of instant dashi products such as this one on the market. They come in jars and little packets.

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But I wanted to make dashi from scratch so that I could figure out the various flavor combinations in order to tweak and customize the stock for future use.

Step 1: Break out your Kombu, which is a type of dried kelp. I found this batch at my local Japanese grocery, but I know that you can also often find it in the Asian section of many mainstream grocery stores. It’s probably stored right next to the sheets of nori seaweed used for rolling sushi. Cut off a couple 4×6-inch pieces, 15 to 20g.

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Soak the kelp in a sauce pot with ~4 cups of water for 2-4 hours. Then bring the water to a boil.

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Once boiling, remove the kelp. The kelp will have hydrated and will look something like this. When I first brought it out of the water it was a dark, dark green. Put it aside and save it in case you want to make another round of dashi stock. (You can make two rounds of dashi stock with the original infusion, but keep in mind that the second round will not have the same strength.)

Once the kelp is removed keep the water boiling for another minute. Then add 1 cup of cold water to cool the broth down.

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Step 2. Bust out some Bonito flakes, which are dried tuna flakes. I get them in these little packages that are 5g each. To make 4-5 cups of stock I’ll use 3-4 of these packets.

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Add the Bonito flakes, turn off the heat and leave it for about 15 minutes or until all the flakes fall to the bottom of the pot.

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Step 3: Drain the stock through a sieve lined with a paper towel. Gently squeeze the remaining liquid from the Bonito flakes. Again, be gentle.

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And what you’ll have left is this fragrant stock that will keep up to a week in the fridge or one month frozen.

This is dashi.

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While dashi has a wonderful umami flavor on its own, you’ll want to add some additional flavors for complexity. Here are some typical additives: Miso, Aji-mirin, sake, soy sauce … even wine. At this point you are only limited to your imagination as far as flavor profiles go.

Making dashi is super easy, offers lots of flexibility and it’s cheap. So, explore and experiment. Have fun!

I know I am.

Dashi
makes ~5cups

5c water
15-20g Kombu (dried kelp)*
15-20g Bonito flakes (dried tuna)*

1. Soak kelp 2-4 hours in 4 cups of water. Bring water to a boil. Remove kelp. Add 1 cup of water.

2. Add Bonito flakes and let sit until they all fall to the bottom.

3. Strain stock through a paper towel or muslin lined sieve.

*Adjust quantities according to your taste.

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