Iriko Dashi Explained: Types, Recipes, and How to Make It

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Iriko dashi, also called niboshi dashi, is a clear, flavorful broth made from dried baby sardines (Niboshi (煮干し), often called iriko (炒り子) in Western Japan).

Iriko (sometimes incorrectly translated as anchovies) are one of many varieties of small dried fish used throughout Asia in snacks and as a seasoning for soup stocks and other foods. So Iriko can be different types of small dried fish, not just anchovies.

The broth is rich and flavorful, with a slightly fishy taste. Iriko dashi can be used in soups, rice dishes, and other recipes.

Let’s look at what it is, how to make it, and how it’s used in the Japanese kitchen.

What is iriko dashi

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Niboshi Dashi: A Fundamental Ingredient in Japanese Cuisine

  • Niboshi dashi is a type of Japanese stock made from dried anchovies, also known as iriko in Japanese.
  • It is a fundamental ingredient in Japanese cuisine and is used in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, and sauces.
  • Niboshi dashi is known for its umami flavor, which is a savory taste that enhances the overall taste of a dish.

How to Make Niboshi Dashi

  • To make niboshi dashi, you will need dried anchovies, water, and a saucepan.
  • First, remove the head and gut of the anchovies and discard them. Then, soak the anchovies in water for about 30 minutes to remove any bitterness.
  • Transfer the anchovies and water to a saucepan and slowly bring it to a boil over low heat. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface.
  • Reduce the heat and let the anchovies simmer for about 10 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and let the anchovies steep in the water for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Strain the anchovies and discard them. The resulting liquid is your niboshi dashi.

Substitutes for Niboshi Dashi

  • If you don’t have dried anchovies, you can use other types of dried fish, such as bonito flakes or sardines, to make dashi.
  • You can also use dashi powder, which is a convenient and easy-to-use alternative to making dashi from scratch.

Using Niboshi Dashi in Cooking

– Niboshi dashi is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are some ideas:
– Use it as a base for miso soup or other types of soup.
– Add it to stews and braises to enhance the flavor.
– Use it as a seasoning for sauces and marinades.
– Mix it with soy sauce and mirin to make a dipping sauce for tempura or other fried foods.

Where to Find Niboshi

  • Niboshi can be found in Japanese grocery stores or online. Look for them in the dried fish section.
  • If you can’t find niboshi, you can try using other types of dried fish, as mentioned above.

Types of Niboshi

There are different kinds of niboshi available in the market, and each has its own unique flavor and uses. Here are some of the types of niboshi:


  • Anchovy:

    This type of niboshi is known as “anchois” in French and is commonly used in Western cuisine. It is saltwater fish and has a bold and fragrant scent.

  • Sardines:

    This type of niboshi is known as “iriko” in Japanese and is the most common type used in making dashi. It has a delicate flavor and is often preferred by people who don’t like a fishier taste.

  • Baby sardines:

    This type of niboshi is smaller than regular sardines and has a milder flavor. It is also known as “niboshi awase” and is often used in making “mizudashi,” a type of dashi that is steeped overnight in cold water.

Preparing Niboshi

Preparing niboshi is a simple process that starts with removing the head and innards of the fish. Here are the main techniques for preparing niboshi:


  • Boiled:

    This method involves boiling the niboshi for a few minutes to remove any impurities and bitterness. It is a common method used for making “nidashi,” a type of dashi that uses both niboshi and kombu (kelp).

  • Soak:

    This method involves soaking the niboshi in water for a few minutes to remove any impurities and bitterness. It is a common method used for making “mizudashi.”

Vegetarian Option

For vegetarians and vegans who prefer not to use fish-based dashi, there is an option to use shiitake mushrooms or kombu to create a natural and vegetarian dashi. This type of dashi is known as “kombu dashi” or “shiitake dashi.” However, it is important to note that the flavor and umami of vegetarian dashi may not be as complex or rounded as dashi made with niboshi or other fish-based ingredients.

In conclusion, niboshi is a common and essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine, especially in making dashi. There are different types of niboshi available, each with its own unique flavor and uses. Whether you prefer a delicate or bold flavor, there is a niboshi that will suit your preference.

Two Ways to Make Niboshi Dashi

If you’re looking for a unique and complex flavor to add to your dishes, then niboshi dashi is a great option. This Japanese stock is commonly used in many dishes, from miso soup to hot pot. Here’s how to make it using the traditional method:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of dried niboshi (baby sardines or anchovies)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 small piece of kombu (dried kelp)

Instructions:
1. Rinse the niboshi in cold water and remove any impurities or dirt.
2. In a medium-sized pot, add the niboshi, kombu, and water.
3. Turn the heat to medium and let the mixture stand for 30 minutes.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn the heat to low.
5. Let the mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes.
6. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
7. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
8. Let the dashi cool fully before using it in your recipe.

Tips:

  • For a stronger flavor, you can boil the mixture for a longer time.
  • If you’re sensitive to strong flavors, you can use less niboshi or boil the mixture for a shorter time.
  • You can also add other ingredients like shiitake mushrooms or awase dashi (a combination of niboshi, katsuobushi, and kombu) to create different types of dashi.

Recipes Using Niboshi Dashi

There are plenty of dishes that use niboshi dashi as a base ingredient. Here are some of the most commonly referred to:

  • Gyudon: A famous Japanese dish consisting of thinly sliced beef topped with onions and a soy-based sauce. Niboshi dashi is usually combined with other types of dashi to create the broth for this hearty bowl.
  • Oyakodon: A rice bowl dish that combines chicken and eggs. Niboshi dashi adds a heartier flavor to the dish.
  • Tamagoyaki: A popular Japanese omelet that is sweet and savory. Niboshi dashi is commonly used to add more depth to the flavor.
  • Miso Soup: A traditional Japanese soup made with miso paste and a dashi broth. Niboshi dashi can be used as an alternative to other types of dashi to create a more flavorful soup.
  • Simmered Daikon: A vegetable dish that is simmered in a broth made with niboshi dashi. The daikon absorbs the flavor of the broth and becomes tender and delicious.
  • Hijiki Salad: A seaweed salad that is commonly served in Japan. Niboshi dashi can be used as a base for the dressing to add more flavor to the dish.
  • Kake Soba or Udon Noodle Soup: A hearty soup made with either soba or udon noodles. Niboshi dashi is used as a base for the broth to create a rich and flavorful soup.

Check Out These Following Tips

  • When making niboshi dashi, it’s important to rinse the niboshi thoroughly to remove any impurities.
  • Niboshi dashi can be combined with other types of dashi to create a more complex flavor.
  • Niboshi dashi can be used as a substitute for other types of dashi in recipes.
  • Niboshi dashi can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for later use.

Frequently Asked Questions About Iriko Dashi

To make Iriko dashi, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Dried baby sardines (Iriko)
  • Water

How do you make Iriko Dashi?

The process of making Iriko dashi is relatively easy and usually takes around 30 minutes. Here are the steps to make Iriko dashi:

1. Rinse the dried baby sardines in cold water to remove any dirt or impurities.
2. Place the sardines in a saucepan and add enough water to cover them.
3. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat and then reduce the heat to low.
4. Simmer the sardines for about 10 minutes until the liquid is extracted and the sardines become soft.
5. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the sardines.

Is Iriko Dashi vegetarian or vegan-friendly?

No, Iriko dashi is not vegetarian or vegan-friendly as it is made from dried baby sardines. However, there are plant-based options available such as kombu dashi or shiitake dashi.

How long can Iriko Dashi be stored?

Iriko dashi can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months.

What are the health benefits of Iriko Dashi?

Iriko dashi is a healthy and natural food that is free from any chemical additives. It is a good source of protein and has a lot of uses in Japanese cuisine.

Can I use leftover Iriko Dashi?

Yes, leftover Iriko dashi can be used in a variety of dishes such as noodle soup, vegetable soup, and stir-fry.

Where can I buy dried baby sardines?

Dried baby sardines can be found in the Asian section of your local grocery store or online.

Are there different kinds of Iriko Dashi?

Yes, there are different types of Iriko dashi depending on the additional ingredients used. For example, some recipes may combine Iriko dashi with kombu or bonito flakes to enhance the flavor.

What dishes can I make with Iriko Dashi?

The possibilities are endless! Here are some dishes that use Iriko dashi:

  • Ramen
  • Udon
  • Tempura
  • Miso soup
  • Salad dressing
  • Okonomiyaki
  • Takoyaki
  • Kitsune udon

Can I use Iriko Dashi in other cuisines?

While Iriko dashi is traditionally used in Japanese cuisine, it can also be used in other Asian cuisines such as Korean and Chinese.

Conclusion

So there you have it, Iriko dashi is a Japanese stock made from dried anchovies, and it’s a fundamental ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It’s umami-rich and has a delicate flavor that enhances the overall taste of the dish. So don’t be afraid to try it out next time you’re cooking Japanese food!

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.