The short answer to this is yes. Dashi, the fish stock base in most Japanese dishes, is bonito stock. But that happens to be a little deceptive.
Dashi is a bit more complicated than just bonito.
What is Dashi?
People make dashi with bonito, or katsuobushi, a dried and aged tuna that gives dashi its umami flavor. Sometimes there are shiitake mushrooms in the stock, as well as sardines or anchovies.
A definite part of dashi is konbu. That’s a kind of sea kelp that has a deep flavor. Many stocks take hours to make, but dashi cooks in about 20 minutes. The dried konbu leaves go in whole and simmer with the rest of the ingredients, including the bonito.
Instant Dashi – Is the Bonito in There?
You can get instant dashi powder or dashi granules, or liquid alternatives. These are pumped full of MSG and other flavor enhancers and tend to taste like the instant food they are, not the simmered bonito stock so loved in Japanese cuisine.
There are people that swear by the instant, though. The bonito is in there, whether it’s powdered or flaked. It’s a matter of taste. You can discover it in Japanese grocery stores that are well-stocked. Even if you have to ask, its flavor completes so many recipes.
Dashi is Bonito, and So Much More
Bonito is the fish part of dashi, but it’s only a part. With the konbu kelp, shiitake mushrooms, and if you add sardines or anchovies, dashi is only partially that delicious dried and aged salmon. Whether you like homemade or instant, you know it’s crucial to your cooking.
Are you ready to head to your local Japanese grocery store? Time to add dashi to that list and grab your wallet and keys. You know you want that best bonito flavor!