Dashi is a foundation component of many Japanese dishes. It is packed with umami, so the taste of whatever you layer on top of the dashi is greatly enhanced.
There are so many views/versions/perspectives/passions on how to make a great dashi, it can get very confusing. As usual, the Serious Eats site does a great job of bringing some greatly needed clarity.
After a bit of experimentation, I settled on the following straightforward and effective method. It produces a great dashi, without the gymnastics required by some methods!
For those interested, I have tried a couple of instant dashi concoctions. They were as you would expect. The difference was as stark as the difference between an instant chicken stock powder, and a chicken stock made from simmering chicken bones and aromatics for a few hours. In other words, significant. If you have the time, and can get the ingredients, it is worth the effort to make your dashi from the base ingredients.
Technically this dashi recipe is a “first dashi” or ichiban dashi, intended for use in a broth such as this kimchi consommé or this shiitake dashi broth. The “second dashi” or niban dashi, can be used in stews or sauces where the refinement of ichiban dashi is less important or noticeable. Follow the step in the recipe to prepare the niban dashi and store in the refrigerator or freezer for use later.
How to make dashi
- 6 cups water
- 20 g kombu
- 20 g shaved bonito aka katsuobushi
- 20 g dried shiitake mushrooms optional
In a saucepan, add the 6 cups of water and the the kombu. If using shiitake mushrooms, add those too. Allow to soak for a few hours or overnight.
If you are short on time, instead of soaking the kombu for hours, you could heat the water in the saucepan to 60 degC and maintain for 1 hour.
Put the saucepan over a medium heat and bring the water and kombu up put to a simmer.
Just before it starts to boil, remove from the heat.
Add the bonito flakes and steep until they sink to the bottom, 5-10 minutes.
Strain the dashi broth through a very fine sieve or muslin. Set aside the steeped kombu and bonito flakes.
[Optional - to make niban dashi - see comments above] In a clean saucepan, add 4 cups water together with the strained ingredients - the kombu and bonito flakes. Bring to a boil then remove from the heat and add another handful of bonito flakes. Allow to cool then strain. Use as a stock.