Dashi is Japanese stock. Nowadays in Japan instant dashi is the norm in most households, and fewer and fewer people still make their own.
There are lots of different types of dashi used in Japanese cooking, but here I’m going to tell you how to make dashi with bonito, konbu (kelp), niboshi (dried whitebait), plus a mixed bonito and konbu dashi, as well. I highly recommend you try making dashi for yourself – not only will you not have to worry about all those additives, it also tastes a hundred times better.
It might sound like a hassle, but making Japanese stock is quicker than stocks from other countries, and delicious! So go on, why not give it a try!
Konbu dashi is said to be the most refined and subtle dashi. There are several ways to make it, but here’s is the most common.
use 10g of konbu per litre of water
1. Put the dried konbu in one litre of water and soak overnight (or at least for 2 hours or so)
2. Put the water with the konbu on a low to medium heat.
3. Remove the konbu just before the water boils, and your konbu dashi is ready.
Waking up in the morning to the sound of bonito being shaved into flakes, and the smell of miso soup wafting from the kitchen…. that kind of old-fashioned morning scene seems like something out of a Yasujiro Ozu movie. Nowadays most Japanese have toast and coffee for breakfast! And I don’t think many people shave their own bonito any more, either. The photo at the top is of an old bonito shaver – a bit like an upside down carpenter’s plane – that I was given years ago. I still use it almost every day!
Use 15g – 20g of bonito flakes per litre of water
(How much you need really depends on the bonito you are using, so treat this only as a rough guide, and experiment.)
1. Bring the water to the boil, then add the bonito flakes.
2. Boil on a medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. (For a more subtle taste boil only very quickly, and longer for a stronger dashi.)
3. Strain the bonito flakes, and your bonito dashi is ready.
Konbu and Bonito mixed dashi
Make the konbu dashi as above, and when you have removed the konbu bring the liquid to the boil, add 15 – 20g of bonito flakes and cook on a medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Then strain off the bonito and your dashi done. (Like above, if you want a stronger taste heat the bonito for longer.)
Niboshi (dried whitebait) dashi
There are several different kinds of niboshi dashi, using dried whitebait (whitebait are little sardines), or flying fish, horse mackerel, or sea bream. I’m going to show you how to make the most popular way, with dried whitebait.
Unlike konbu or bonito dashi, niboshi dashi has a stronger fish flavour and smell. For that reason it’s not suitable for fish dishes, as the flavours compete with each other. I think it goes best with vegetables, especially greens.
Use 20-30g dried whitebait per litre of water
1. remove the heads of the niboshi, open the body with your fingers and take out the black innards. (You roast the niboshi next in a frying pan if you want to get an even richer, aromatic dashi.)
2. Put the niboshi in water and soak overnight (or at least 1 hour). Put them in the fridge in the warmer months.
3. Put the water with the niboshi in a saucepan and simmer slowly on a low heat for 10 minutes. Scoop off any froth that appears.
4. Strain off the niboshi, and the liquid that remains is your niboshi dashi.