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How To Make Dashi – A Basic Japanese Soup Stock

You are in love with Japanese cuisine? The answer is of course yes. Any visitor coming to Japan can not fall out of love with those delicious dishes full of freshness, colors and flavors. Many of them have tried to cook Japanese dishes when coming back home, but the outcome cannot come up to the original versions. Well, the secret lays on the soup stock used in the dish. In Japan, dashi is among the most popular types of soup stocks that appears in most water-based dishes. In this post, Question Japan will show how to make dashi from scratch. Now, let’s get started.

Ultimate guide to how to make dashi

Definition and history

What is dashi? This is a simple soup broth made of a combination of ingredients which are rich in umami (the fifth taste after sweet, salty, sour, bitter). As Japanese cuisine features the freshness and natural tastes of the food, the local people don’t use chemical food additives. Instead, they use soup stocks like dashi to enhance the flavors of their dishes. The ingredients are completely from nature such as bonito fish flakes, dried kombu kelp seaweed, dried shiitake mushrooms, and dried whole sardines. Unlike Western soup base made from meat, vegetable and spices and stewed in hours, this Japanese basic stock just needs roughly half an hour to turn into a finished product.

how to make dashi

A simple soup broth made of a combination of ingredients which are rich in umami

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The use of this soup base in cooking can date back to 8th century, when the broth just employed raw or boiled bonito fish. In hundred years later, different parts of the country have experimented to work out which ingredients give the best savory flavor. Among those listed above ingredients, bonito fish flakes, which was discovered in the Edo period (17th Century), is the most common in dashi recipe.

The use of dashi in cooking

As mentioned earlier, Japanese cuisine doesn’t use spice powder, so dashi acts as a flavor enhancer in dishes. The most common use of this soup stock is perhaps in miso soup – one of the daily must-have dishes in Japan. It is advised to use dashi stock, but not vegetable or chicken broth to get the most of the flavor.

how to make dashi

Miso soup

Moreover, this is the broth base of almost all Japanese water-based dishes such as: Japanese hotpots (nabemono),stews (e.g:Oden) or noodle soup dishes (e.g: soba,udon, ramen).

Japanese people even use it as a seasoning liquid for dishes like takoyaki, tamagoyaki or even add it to dipping sauces to enhance the savoriness in the dishes.

dashi recipe

This soup stock has various uses

Dashi is easy to make, but failure can occur if you don’t follow the instruction carefully. Its quality can change the entire taste of Japanese cuisine.

Dashi types

As dashi is made from umami-rich ingredients, so this soup stock is not very diverse. However, you should have insight into different types of dashi to choose the suitable one for each dish. Below is the list of types, categorized by ingredients and times of incarnation.

how to make dashi

Types of dashi

Ingredient

Type Ingredient(s) Suitable dishes
Awase type kombu (dried kelp), katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) miso soup,oyakodon, oden, nikujaga,etc
Kombu type kombu (dried kelp) yudofu, clam soup, shabu shabu,etc
Katsuo type katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) clear soup, vegetable ohitashi, noodle soup dishes,etc
Iriko type iriko / niboshi (dried baby sardines) miso soup, donburi, udon,etc
Shiitake type dried shiitake mushrooms takikomi gohan, nabeyaki udon, stir-fried dishes, steamed fish,etc

Incarnation times

Depending on incarnation times, dashi is divided into 2 types: ichiban (first) dashi and niban (second) dashi. The first dashi is made from unused ingredients, while the second dashi makes use of the previously used materials in the first cook to make the second broth. Although sharing the same ingredients, these two types of dashi are different in characteristics and purposes. The first dashi has light color, clean flavors and aromas. It is suitable for clear soups, broth in ramen shops or home cooked miso soup. Meanwhile, the second dashi has lower color and aroma intensity. It acts as a flavor building block in  stews, glazes, sauces, which do not require high refinement.

how to make dashi

Ichiban dashi (left) vs Niban dashi (right)

Dashi stock recipe

Ingredients

  • 0.7 oz (20 g) kombu
recipe

Dried kombu kelp with white umami powder on the surface.

  • 3 cups (30 g) loosely packed katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)

Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)

  • 4 cups (1000 ml) water (or 8 cups)

*Note: Each type varies in ingredients

How to make dashi stock

1.Use damp cloth to remove and dust in the kombu kelp. Bear in mind to wipe it slightly to avoid losing the white powder on the surface of the kelp, as this powder is umami. Make slits on the kombu.

2. Soak kombu in water pot for at least 30 minutes (OPTIONAL).

3. Boil the pot in medium heat. Take kombu out immediately when bubbles start emerging. Then turn off the heat, let dashi cool down for a while.

4. Turn the heat up, add katsuobushi and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat to minimum and leave bonito flakes simmer in at least 30 seconds. During this process, skim the scum occasionally.

5. Turn of the heat, let katsuobushi sink to the pot bottom. Now you’ve finished making dashi.

6. Strain dashi through sieve lined with paper towel. Do not squeeze katsuobushi, let it drain naturally; or else dashi will get opaque.

*Note: Follow the same steps to make niban dashi from boiled ingredients of ichiban dashi.

Frequently asked questions besides how to make dashi

Do we really need to make dashi twice?

In regular households, Japanese people often cook dishes that require the pure and maximum amount of umami from the dashi ingredients. Therefore, the first dashi is more favorable. People only make niban dashi when the demands arise. In case of not making niban dashi, remember not to discard those used ingredients.People will freeze them and accumulate enough for the next uses, or they utilize them to make other dishes like Furikake or Kombu Tsukudani.

On the other hand, restaurants always make dashi twice, as they have to serve a variety of dishes every day, which means a call for both dashi types.

How long can you keep your dashi stock?

Well, it depends on your ingredients. Normally, dashi stock lasts at most one week if refrigerated and one month if frozen. However, its quality gradually decreases,as time goes by. If you want to preserve dashi, never put them in room temperature but in the fridge.

Is dashi good for health?

Dashi is a natural flavor enhancer that is very good for health. Among dashi types, any type that contains katsuobushi is the best. The high inosinic acid and amino acid content in the fish flakes activates body cells. Besides, katsuobushi has low-fat content, and it is helpful with fatigue relief and high blood pressure. It is also crucial for how in the production of strong teeth and bones. Last but not least, it even has an anti-aging effect. What a super healthy food additive ever!

Conclusion

Dashi is a healthy and easy-making soup stock. It is nearly a determining factor for Japanese dishes. After reading our article, we hope that you’ve learned how to make dashi and gained basic insight into this soup stock. If you have any questions or suggestions about dashi, feel free to let us know in the comment section.

About Haruto Suzuki

Haruto Suzuki is a senior food and drinks blogger at Question Japan. He has a background in F&B industry and also experience of running his own Japanese restaurant in Tokyo for over 10 years. Therefore, he has a great knowledge of Japanese cuisine. So if you want to discover Japan through its unique traditional cuisine, Haruto Suzuki’s blog will be a great source of information for you.