Dashi is a Japanese made soup stock or cooking stock used in a variety of Japanese dishes.
This liquid stock (flavoring) is used as the basis for all sorts of soups by the Japanese and the reason for that is because it accentuates the savory flavor as umami.
The flour base (also called batter) of grilled foods like the okonomiyaki and takoyaki also uses dashi as an essential flavoring ingredient.
Origins of Dashi
Dashi is the cooking broth at the heart of Japanese cuisine.
It may not look much, but this clear, and impeccant broth is imbued one of the five basic tastes of the human sense of taste that our taste receptors pick up in food and drink, which is called umami (savory).
The dashi adds richness and depth to any recipe you cook, which is why Japanese chefs always keep this stock in their kitchen.
Approximately 800 years ago in Japan, the cooks started experimenting with kombu (a type of kelp) and mixing it with pure spring water. The kombu contains glutamate from which the dashi’s umami’s flavor is derived.
It’s amazing to know that making the dashi is incredibly simple yet it is used in half of all Japanese cuisines!
Just boil water and add kombu plus some dried bonito flakes and the broth that results from that combination is your dashi stock (bonito is a fish that evolved from the tuna fish).
The dashi stock can be prepared in about 30 minutes or so, which is faster than the Western stocks that normally takes a couple of hours to cook.
It is practically impossible to truly appreciate Japanese cuisines without the dashi as any other substitute for the dashi doesn’t come close to bringing out the authentic flavor of the dishes when dashi is present in the ingredients.
Types of Japanese Dashi
Kombu dashi uses just two ingredients, pure water, and kombu kelp, making it an excellent broth option for vegans and vegetarians.
The 2 techniques used for preparing the kombu dashi are:
- nidashi (simmering)
- mizudashi (cold water extraction)
Using the nidashi technique, you must first place the kombu kelp in a pot of cold water and allow it to sit there for about 30 minutes – 3 hours..
Afterward, place it on top of the stove and boil the water over medium heat, while skimming the water surface in order to remove any foams and keep the broth clear.
Remember to take out the kombu from the pot just before the water starts to boil because if you don’t, then the dashi stock may end up tasting bitter and slimy. After boiling the dashi strain the broth through a sieve to remove any foam or dirt.
If you want to extract the dashi from kombu via cold water extraction, then cut a steep piece of kombu kelp, put it in a small water container and refrigerate it overnight.
Once done you can pour the dashi stock in a bottle container and use it sparingly on multiple dishes.
You will notice a clear, lightly colored broth with a deep umami flavor.
Ikiro dashi (also called niboshi dashi) is another kind of dashi made by mixing anchovies or baby dried sardines and water.
This dashi has a deep fishy flavor than the others and is preferred in the eastern Kanto region in Japan as it came from a tradition of fishing folks.
You can make the iriko dashi by simply putting baby dried sardines or anchovies in a pot with 2- 4 cups of water in it, bring it to boil and wait until the scent of the fish emerges.
When that happens, then this means that the dashi is ready.
It is believed by some people that the head and innards of dried fish cause the dashi to become bitter, so they remove it, while others think it’s just fine and boil the dried fish as a whole.
And as for the dried fish in the dashi, you can strain then through a sieve to remove them from the broth or leave them as is.
Shitake dashi is derived from the dried shitake mushrooms, which is famous in Japan and is loved by many vegetarians due to the strong flavor it gives off of the dashi stock.
This dashi doesn’t need boiling and all you have to do is to soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in lukewarm water.
It is not recommended that you use water that’s been heated to almost or at its boiling point as it may prevent the shitake mushroom from releasing the much needed savory umami flavor.
Unlike the kombu dashi though, the shitake dashi has a dark brown color to the broth.
Some people mix shitake dashi and kombu dashi to get the best of both flavors.
Bonito/Katsuo (Awase Dashi)
The most common name for dashi these days is known as awase dashi.
Made out of a combination of katsuobushi (bonito fish flakes) and kombu kelp, the awase dashi has a more complex flavor when compared to other dashi types.
First, you extract the kombu dashi by using the nidashi method.
Check the pot regularly when you’re simmering the kombu and wait until the water is almost at its boiling point, then remove the kombu. After that add the bonito fish flakes to enhance the flavor.
As soon as the pot comes to a boil, turn off the stove and allow the dried fish flakes to absorb the broth for a few minutes.
Make sure to check if the flakes have already sunk to the bottom of the pot before straining the broth.
It should have a delicate taste to it with a cadmium-like yellow tinge to it and a refined flavor.
You can keep the kombu and bonito flakes to make more dashi and the new dashi will actually have a stronger flavor than the first one.
Ready-Made Dashi Stock (Powder or Dried Shitake Mushrooms)
There is also ready-made dashi powder or in some other form that is readily available in online stores and sometimes in local groceries near you.
They are cheap, easy to prepare, and they last long for many occasions where you can make up to 2 dozen dashi stocks per bottle or pack.
But they do have some disadvantages and the most notable one is that they tend to not make the perfect blend that raw materials do, so you may only get 70% of the right flavor (umami) if you’ll use these things.
However, some customers who used it say that come manufacturers come very close in replicating the dashi stock savory flavor umami.
Instant Dashi That You Can Buy Online
Kayanoya Original Dashi Stock Powder (8-gram Packets x 30)
Praised for its accurate umami savory flavor, this dashi stock powder from Kayanoya uses a unique blend of ingredients to help you make the perfect dashi stock even if you have no experience in making it.
They used dried bonito flakes, dried sardine extract, roasted flying fish, dried round herring flakes, kelp, salt, soy sauce, and a few other preservatives.
Use 1 packet of this dashi stock powder for every 2 cups of water to mix it with any recipe that requires dashi in it.
Freeze Dried Japanese Vegan Dashi Broth Powder Kaiseki Dehydrated Vegetarian Soup
A good way to preserve food is by free drying them and this Freeze Dried Japanese Vegan Dashi Broth Powder is the best example of it.
Although they did ground it to become a powdery substance this dehydrated soup base was made from fresh vegetables with no other additives.
The Kaiseki vegetarian soup is ideal for sautéing or vegetable stew with rice, any stir-fried recipes, soba or udon noodles, and rice nigiri.
Enjoy the best of dashi broth on any meals while also benefiting from its nutrient-rich ingredients!
Ajinomoto Hondashi Bonito Soup Stock, 2.2 Pound Resealable Bag (Pack of 2)
Ajinomoto has been a household name since after WWII and it is still a reliable brand even to this day.
With that in mind, their Hondashi Bonito Soup Stock is made from dried fish flakes (primarily Bonito), which when you mix with water and bring to boil will create your dashi stock.
Now you can cook any Japanese soup, broths, and stews with the Ajinomoto Bonito-dashi stock powder and get that accurate taste from traditional Japanese cuisines.
Yutaka Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, 30 grams
This ready-made dashi stock is not pulverized but rather is made from dried shitake a mushroom that’s been specially preserved to retain all the savory flavors (umami) and nutrients.
The shitake mushroom has been used by Japanese cooks and chefs for thousands of years on both traditional and modern Japanese delicacies like nabe hot pots, tempura, yakiniku, stir-fries, and miso soup.
Just soak it in water for 30 minutes or so and then strain it with a sieve and the resulting liquid will be your shitake dashi stock.
Shimaya Bonito Dashi Stock – Powder, 50 grams x 10 Sachets
Here again, is a similar dried powderized bonito dashi stock, but it’s not just another generic dashi powder because it has gone a 5/5 stars rating with 29 positive reviews given by customers in the Japan Centre website.
Retaining the classic Japanese flavor of real dashi stock, this box contains 10 sachets of dashi soup stock (rich in the umami flavors which was extracted from bonito fish flakes) that is essential in most traditional Japanese foods.
You’ll surely enjoy cooking your favorite Japanese dishes with the Shimaya Bonito Dashi Stock as you’ll be able to cook like a real Japanese kitchen pro!
Kikkoman Concentrated Hontsuyu Soup Base, 300 ml
And last but not least is the ultimate Japanese seasoning – Kikkoman Concentrated Hontsuyu Soup Base!
Kikkoman always makes the best sauces and other seasonings and this one is as good as any of their best-selling products.
This hontsuyu soup base is made from bonito, sardine, and soda bonito fish flakes which give it an aggressive flavor (4x concentrated) that makes a great dashi stock suited for dishes like noodles, stews, stir-fries, nabe hot pots, and as a dressing or seasoning for other non-soup recipes.
The tsuyu is made from a combination of dashi (which in this case is from fish extracts), soy sauce, and mirin.