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Dashi – Japanese Sea-stock

Dashi 1

In Japanese culinary parlance, Dashi, in the strictest sense, simply refers to a stock typically made from seaweed, mushrooms, dried fish, or a combination of these. Unless the type is actually specified, however, the bare term ‘Dashi’ means a stock made from Kombu and Katsuobushi. This very basic preparation is used in countless Japanese dishes including soups, hotpot or stewed dishes (nabemono) and a variety of sauces. Accordingly, it is one of the very cornerstones of the national cuisine… 

The Ingredients

  • 4 cups water;
  • 1 8-inch piece of Kombu;
  • 2 good-sized handfuls of Katsuobushi shavings.

If you follow the link for Katsuobushi in the opening paragraph, you will see that the shavings can be quite thick or very thin. I am using the latter as they are most commonly used by those who still make the stock from scratch. If using the thick shavings, however, you might want to use smaller handfuls.

The Method

Dashi 2

Put the water and Kombu in a pot (you may need to cut the Kombu into pieces first) and soak for 30 minutes or so. Then, put the pot on a burner at moderate heat and allow it to come *almost* to a boil. Once you see small bubbles starting to rise, remove the Kombu and reserve for now.

Dashi 3

Allow the water to come to a boil and throw in the Katsuobushi. Remove the pan from the heat and allow everything to cool for about 15 to 20 minutes until the shavings have mostly sunk to the bottom of the pot. Once the shavings are strained out (keep them for now), the resultant liquid is your dashi. It can be used immediately or store in a covered container in the fridge for a week or so.

A Second Run…

Dashi 4

The ingredients above can actually be used twice so as to make a ‘first-run’ stock known as Ichiban Dashi (number one dashi), followed by a second quantity called Niban dashi (or number two dashi). Just add the leftover seaweed and fish to another 4 cups of water, bring it almost to a boil, and then simmer on low heat for 15 – 20 minutes. If you have used the very thin style katsuobushi shavings, the result will be quite a bit milder than the first run and some people add another handful or so of the fresh article to make up for this. Again, this can be used right away or stored for later use…



17 Comments Post a comment
  1. ohsohappy #

    Mmm, umami. There is no substitute. 🙂

    February 19, 2014
    • Powdered dashi granules are much more widely used than dashi from scratch these days. The products are okay but lack the delicate nuances.

      February 19, 2014
  2. what a coinsidence, i just made ochazuke…
    my dashi usually used konbu, bonito, chinese mushrooms, but for ochazuke i add ocha or green tea!!!

    February 19, 2014
    • I saw your post in my e-mail inbox list… I will be looking as I am dying to try using tea for cooking sometime (other than as a smoking agent, which I often do).

      February 19, 2014
  3. it safe to buy this now, with Fukishima leaking radioactivity into the sea?

    February 19, 2014
    • I think both have fairly wide areas of harvest so in the absence of any direct evidence of actual contamination I would chance it (fingers crossed).

      February 19, 2014
  4. What is the shelf life for Kombu and Katsuobushi shavings. Your post reminds me that I bought both a while back and completely forgot I did.

    February 19, 2014
    • Kombu seems to last forever… I just bought a new package but the stuff I used for this post was *well* over a year old… probably two or maybe even three. the fine shavings of Katsuobushi will last at least a year or so but after that they darken and will start to lose their aroma. The thicker shavings and the block will presumably last longer but I haven’t experienced them long enough to really be able to tell.

      February 19, 2014

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