Awase Dashi: Traditional Kombu & Katsuobushi Recipe
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Dashi is one of those stocks you could put into anything, and it would turn out delicious.
A lot of different recipes in Japanese cuisine call for dashi, each carrying the same umami DNA but with an extra kick of flavors from other ingredients.
The one I will share with you is the simplest and perhaps the most traditional one.
In this recipe, we will be combining kombu and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) for a traditional dashi stock called awase dashi.
What makes this recipe really awesome is not only its truly authentic umami flavor but its simple preparation and its nutritional significance.
In the end, I’ll also be sharing some great beginner tips for this rather simple dish to cook it to perfection.
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Cooking your dashi from scratch
There are a few reasons why you might want to cook your own dashi stock. For one, it’s a very easy process and requires no special ingredients.
Additionally, you can customize the flavor of your dashi to match your own personal preference.
Finally, making your own dashi stock is a great way to save money, as it’s often much cheaper to make than to buy pre-made broth or stock.
Awase Dashi Stock Recipe
- medium pot
- 1 piece dried kombu kelp
- 1 cup katsuobushi dried bonito flakes
- 4 cups water
- Prepare all your ingredients. Don't wash off the kombu, even if there is a white powdery substance on it because this gives it that intense umami flavor.
- Using kitchen shears, cut the kombu in half, and then for each piece, cut some slits into the kombu until you reach the middle. About 3 slits per piece is enough to release more flavor into the broth.
- In a medium pot, add the water and the kombu.
- Heat the water on low to medium heat for approximately 10 minutes until it is almost at a boil.
- Use a skimmer or spoon to remove any bubbly foam from the top of the dashi.
- As the mixture starts to boil, remove the kombu pieces and throw them away.
- Add all the katsuobushi and bring the mixture to a boil.
- As soon as the dashi boils, turn down the heat and simmer for about 30-40 seconds. Turn off the heat.
- Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the dashi into a clean bowl or jar. The dashi stock is ready for use.
Cooking tips: the perfect dashi every time
I have seen a lot of first-timers talking about their dashi having a sort of “metallic” or “bitter” taste to it.
Well, there are a couple of things you might be doing wrong here. And guess what, they are quite common…even I had to experiment a bit to get around it.
Anyways, the first culprit to blame for such taste might be an imbalanced ratio of dashi or katsuoboshi in the water.
For that, I would highly recommend going with 10g of kombu per 100ml of water and add 1.5 times the amount of katsuobushi in it.
This should give you a very balanced flavor…especially if your tastebuds aren’t yet perfectly accustomed to the taste.
Once you get to know what works for you, you can tweak the ratios to intensify flavors.
Another great tip you can use to bring out the best flavors out of your kombu leaves is to leave them in the water overnight, remove them, and then simmer the liquid with added bonito flakes.
This is more of a gentle, but effective approach to get the most out of your dashi.
To get the most out of your ingredients, I would also recommend reusing them, especially for if you are making miso soup or nimono, where you only want a hint of umaminess offered by dashi.
The dashi prepared this way is also known as niban-dashi.
As for dishes where dashi is the main flavoring component, like chawanmushi and udon, you would like to use ichiban-dashi, which is basically the recipe I just shared.
Also, never use subpar quality bonito flakes, and definitely don’t over-simmer the kombu leaves.
Both of the aforementioned can totally ruin the dish and perhaps might be the reason your dashi is just too intense for your tastebuds.
Variations of simple dashi
Depending on what you will be using it in, dashi can be made with a bunch of different umami-rich ingredients.
And each time you change the ingredients, a new variation of dashi is formed, with a totally different name.
Following are some common variations of dashi you would like to know about:
Katsuobushi dashi, or bonito soup stock, is the simplest dashi recipe among all. It only uses bonito flakes for flavor enhancement.
The taste of this dashi is very subtle, making it suitable for a variety of dishes, including miso soup, noodles, and a bunch of different simmered Japanese dishes.
The stock is usually prepared from two types of bonito flakes, the “hankatsuo” and “atsukezuri.” The only difference between both shavings is that of thickness.
It is said that the “atsukezuri” has a comparatively stronger flavor compared to “hankatsuo.” However, the most common one in households is still “hankatsuo.”
Kombu dashi is the most basic form of dashi that is made with kombu leaves only.
The most common varieties of kombu used in this dashi include rausu kombu, roshiri kombu, ma-kombu, and hidaka kombu.
Here, it is important to mention that the type of kombu leaf you use will have a huge influence on the dashi’s taste and color.
For example, if we talk about ma-kombu, it has somewhat a very well-refined, delicate, and subtly sweet taste with a touch of umami, making it ideal for strongly flavored dashi.
On the other hand, Hidaka kombu has a very mellow taste, making it ideal for miso soups and oden.
Last but not least, we have rashiri and rausu kombu leaves.
Rashiri is mostly used for vegetarian dishes since it has no special flavor, while the rausu variety is used only on special occasions.
That’s because rausu kombu leaves have the strongest flavor, and the heaviest price tag.
Plus, it is also the most versatile variety of all.
Iriko dashi is a variety of dashi prepared from dried anchovies, or baby sardines.
Compared to other varieties, this one has a relatively bold flavor and is mostly used in the eastern regions of Japan, where people prefer stronger flavors.
Talking of the preparation process, the dried anchovies are boiled in water until it starts giving a fishy scent.
Before boiling, some people like to remove the innards and head of the fish to prevent any bitterness.
Niboshi dashi is quite versatile, and can be used in a lot of dishes that require some boldness in flavor, including miso soup, ramen soup, etc.
Shiitake dashi is prepared from dried shiitake mushrooms, an ingredient that holds almost a mythical status in Chinese and Japanese cuisine due to its nutritional and culinary significance.
Talking of the overall flavor profile, dried shiitake mushrooms have a very rich, pure umami flavor, with some hints of earthyiness and smokiness that really goes well with its overall flavor profile.
Dashi is quite commonly prepared with shiitake mushrooms, often combined with kombu leaves for a more refined flavor.
It is a great way to make your dashi vegan.
Shiitake dashi is most commonly used for miso noodle soup, ramen noodle soup, and different simmered dishes.
There are over five varieties of shiitake mushrooms used for preparing dashi, among which, donko mushrooms are considered the best when it comes to taste and budget.
Ago dashi is prepared from dried flying fish or agoo. However, the flavor profile of this dashi variety will highly depend upon the drying method of the fish.
For example, you will be either using the niboshi variety, which is prepared by boiling with salt, and then drying, or the Yakiago variety, which is prepared by grilling and then drying.
Though both varieties will give off the characteristic refreshing and rich taste, yakiago is considered more aromatic and flavorful. You can use agoo dashi in any dish of your choice.
Shojin dashi is also called vegetarian dashi, as it does not use any sort of animal ingredients.
The main ingredients used in preparing this dashi include shiitake mushrooms, kombu, soybean, and other vegetables like grain, etc that have hints of umami in their flavor.
Shojin dashi is used as a stock for a number of dishes, including soups and other simmered vegetable dishes.
How to use dashi? 3 delicious dashi recipes to try out now!
If you have read carefully, I mentioned at the start that dashi is used as a stock base for almost more than half of all Japanese recipes.
Though it’s impossible to name all of them, the following are 3 of my favorite for-life dashi recipes I would love to share with you:
If miso soup was a the ‘Mission Impossible’ film series, dashi would be the Tom Cruise of it.
Both complete each other, giving us a few gulps of pure umami delight that warms us to the soul!
Miso soup is a Japanese staple and an important part of the region’s food culture.
In the west, it is consumed mainly as a winter treat that has all the health benefits and taste one looks for.
If you don’t know how to make a perfect miso soup, check out our delicious miso soup recipe with dashi, wakame, and scallions.
Sometimes I wonder how even very common words in Japanese sound so beautiful. I mean, suimono in English simply means “sipping thing.”
Anyways, suimono is a clear soup recipe with little to no unique ingredients and a very modest appearance.
All you need is dashi and a pinch of salt, and you have an umami-rich, clear, and warm soup feast upon.
But hey, that doesn’t mean it has to be all that simple!
Of course, you can be a little creative with it. Many people love to add a dash of soy sauce sake and some mushrooms to the soup to give it some texture.
Just make sure not to go over the top with anything. It will destroy the real essence of suimono, which lies in its simplicity.
The name happo dashi is derived from the Japanese phrase “shihou-happo,” which translates as “in all directions.”
Guess what? The name fits this amazing broth in every sense, given its super-versatile uses.
Just take some dashi and mix it with light soy sauce, mirin, and sake in a 10:1:1:1 ratio, and there you have, a liquid that really goes in every direction.
You can use happo dashi as a dipping sauce for your favorite dumpling and tempuras, as a gravy for ankake to warm your cold winter day with a few bites of warmth, and as a perfect soup for noodles.
Happo dashi has to be one of my all-time favorites… without a pinch of doubt!
How to store dashi?
If you have some leftover dashi, put it in a jar and refrigerate it. This should keep it good enough for use for the next 3-5 days.
However, If you don’t plan to use it within the given duration, you might have to freeze it. This way, it will be all OK for use for the next three months at least.
However, freezing dashi is a little more technical than simply storing it in a refrigerator. If you haven’t done that before, the following tips will help:
Let it cool
Once you have perfectly prepared dashi, transfer it to another utensil and let it sit until it cools down. In the meantime, don’t forget to cover it with a paper towel.
This will prevent any contamination from entering the broth.
Divide it in portions
Before you transfer dashi to your freezer, keep in mind that once you unfreeze it, you must use the batch all in one go.
However, that won’t always be the case, especially when you are storing a huge amount of dashi.
That said, you would like to be a bit considerate and divide your dashi into portions.
That way, you will have the option to use only a specific amount at a time, preventing the entire batch from spoiling.
Add to containers
When you have considered how much dashi you will be using in the future, simply get jars of uniform sizes.
Put a specific amount of dashi stock into them one by one, airtight them, and firmly fix the lids.
Once the containers are filled, label them each with today’s date, put them in the freezer, and use within three months.
Out of dashi? Try these 5 simple substitutes!
I get it! Not everyone has an Asian superstore two blocks from their home.
And sometimes, it seems too much to drive for half an hour to get a leave of kombu or a packet of bonito flakes to make a bowl of soup… unless you are really crazy about it.
The good news is, you don’t have to!
Following are some of the best dashi substitutes you would like to try out when your recipe calls for that unique umami punch.
The best thing? You will find them in any grocery store!
Chicken stock powder
The chicken stock powder is an umami-filled powerhouse that can replace dashi in every dish- you name it!
It is mostly prepared from chicken bones and vegetables, with some extra salt. My only advice? Use it sparingly, and you won’t be able to tell the difference.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, has the purest umami punch known and is used for its unique flavor worldwide.
It is the specific chemical naturally found in dashi and bonito flakes that gives them their umami flavor.
You will find it in every Asian and western store. However, use it sparingly since it has supposedly serious side effects.
Don’t mind the dark color? Try soy sauce!
Though it is salty for the most part and does not have a straight-up umami punch within, it will hold up quite well if used with a little generosity.
Soy sauce, too, is quite a common option and can be found in any of your nearest grocery stores.
With delicate color, thin broth, and super umami flavor, chicken broth is another great option you can use instead of dashi.
What makes it one of my favorites is its simple and defined flavor and ability to blend in with every dish without any problems. You will love it!
You won’t find shio kombu anywhere other than an Asian store. But if you do, consider yourself in luck!
Filled with umami goodness and a little saltiness, a sprinkle of shio kombu on your favorite dish will ensure you get all the taste you want.
That, too, without any liquid stock. Isn’t it great?
How long can dashi be kept?
It depends on how you store it. If you keep it in a fridge, it will last for 3 to 5 days. However, if you freeze it, it can last up to 3 months.
As I have previously mentioned, divide it into portions to ensure nothing goes to waste.
How long can I soak dashi?
Kombu leaves in dashi need to be soaked for at least 20 minutes.
However, if you are not in a rush, I recommend soaking the leaves for 3 hours or overnight for a more defined flavor.
What is the purpose of dashi?
Dashi stock is one of the staple ingredients in Japanese cuisine and is used as a base for many recipes, from clear soups to hot pot dishes, ramen noodles, and anything in between.
Japanese cuisine is incomplete without dashi.
Why is my dashi slimy?
If your dashi has a slimy texture and bitter taste, you might be leaving the kombu leaves in the pot for too long.
It should be left in the pot for an overnight duration maximum.
Is dashi halal?
Given that dashi does not use any prohibited ingredients per Islamic teachings, it is halal food with numerous health benefits.
Can you eat dashi on its own?
Well, at its very core, dashi is just a clear broth that can be consumed independently.
Still, I would highly recommend adding some veggies and mushrooms to enhance its flavor and make it a wholesome meal.
Can you reuse kombu for dashi?
Yes, you can reuse kombu to make a second dashi broth, also known as “niban dashi.”
However, its use is limited and cannot be added to dishes where dashi is the main flavoring ingredient. It is mostly used for simmering vegetables.
What do you use katsuo dashi for?
You can use katsuo dashi for many Japanese dishes, including miso soup, chawanmushi, and noodles.
It is also a common ingredient of dashimaki Tamago, a traditional Japanese omelette.
Dashi is one of the essential ingredients in Japanese cuisine and is a base for many different recipes.
Its umami and rich flavor make the already delicious dishes downright mouthwatering, giving them a very clean, defined, and simply fantastic taste that is only specific to Japanese dishes.
In this article, I shared with you the most basic and classic dashi recipe anyone can make at home and flavor their meals.
I hope this article has been helpful throughout. Hopefully, now you won’t have any difficulty making dashi.
That said, grab all the ingredients you need, follow the instructions given on the recipe card, and enjoy!
Check out our new cookbook
Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.
Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:Read for free
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.