What is Dashi?
Dashi, the traditional Japanese stock, is an indispensable part in Japanese cuisine because of its flavor enhancing action. It is sometimes referred to as ‘the heart of Japanese cuisine’. Dashi is an extract of certain ingredients such as fish, meats, vegetables, and seaweed, and it is often used to add flavor to various Japanese dishes.
The most common ingredients for dashi stock are dried bonito flakes, dried sardine, dried flying fish, kombu kelp, and shiitake mushroom. All very fragrant ingredients that have natural flavoring.
Dashi is commonly used for daily dishes (such as miso and clear soups), salads, simmered dishes, and fried foods.
To make dashi, you can just boil the main ingredients until the flavor is transferred into a stock soup. But today, it’s even easier to make dashi because dashi comes in multiple instant forms like the tea-bag packet type, granules, and powder.
Types of Dashi And How To Make Them
There are actually a lot of types of dashi, each has a particular flavor that can be perfect for different kinds of food. Here are some of them:
The features of kombu dashi are characterized by the gentle taste of kelp and how it can make the best of the original taste of the ingredients in your cooking without overpowering it.
You can improve the flavor of kombu dashi by combining it with the animal-based dashi like katsuo dashi or niboshi dashi.
Besides boiling, you can obtain kombu dashi by soaking it as well. Though when you only soak it, make sure to use more kombu to get enough flavor from the dashi.
Use Kombu Dashi for:
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The katsuo dashi is a dashi made with bonito flakes. The dashi is characterized by its umami taste and rich aroma. You can say that katsuo dashi is an all-purpose dashi that can bring out the taste of any ingredients.
This dashi doesn't need much time to soak in the water like other ingredients, so you would be able to make it quickly when you want to use this stock as a base.
The flavor of katsuo dashi will be improved by combining it with the vegetable-based kombu dashi.
Use Katsuo Dashi for:
・Clear broth soup
・Chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard)
・Broth for hot pot
・Broth for noodle
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Niboshi (煮干し), often called Iriko (炒り子) in Western Japan, are Japanese dried infant sardines. They are one of the many varieties of small dried fish used throughout Asia in snacks and as seasoning for soup stocks and other foods.
Niboshi dashi is made by soaking and boiling niboshi in plain water. If left overnight or boiled, the flavor of the small sardines permeates the water and makes a delicious dashi.
Niboshi dashi or iriko dashi is characterized by the strong taste of fish. It's suitable for simple and homely miso soup or to enhance fish dishes.
Use Niboshi/iriko Dashi for:
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When we talk about Japanese dashi, ingredients that usually pop out in our mind are kelp, bonito flakes, or dried sardines. But, ago dashi has gained more popularity in recent years as it has become one of the most easily found types of dashi.
Ago is a Japanese term for tobiuo (トビウオ、飛魚) means Flying Fish, while yaki (焼き) is Japanese word for grilled or roasted. So, yaki-ago means grilled flying fish. There is also another variation of this dashi called niboshi ago. It uses sun dried flying fish instead of roasted ago.
Flying fish has a low proportion of fat in its body, causing it to have more protein and less fishy odor. That is why yaki-ago dashi has a clear elegance and deeper flavor. Other characteristics of yaki-ago dashi is it has a slightly savory aroma and sweet flavor.
Use Yaki-Ago Dashi for:
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Hoshi shiitake is dried shiitake mushroom. Hoshi Shiitake are large, flat, dried shiitake mushrooms. They have a more concentrated, meaty flavour than fresh shiitake mushrooms, and have a chewy texture. They are dark brown on top, and tan or orangey-brown underneath where the gills are.
Hoshi shiitake (dried shiitake mushroom) can be made into delicious dashi and often used as a base for boiled foods, such as Japanese hot pot. For those who do not prefer dashi with animal ingredients in it, hoshi-shiitake is a handy ingredient along with kombu.
Hoshi-shiitake dashi also has good compatibility with kombu. We recommend making a combined dashi of kombu and hoshi shiitake.
Use Hoshi-Shiitake Dashi for:
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Vegetable Scraps Dashi
As the name suggests, it is soup stock made from vegetable scraps. Using the cut ends, skins, and cores, scraps of vegetables, this dashi is not only economical but can also reduce food waste.
Common veggies used for this dashi are celery, carrots, onions, cabbages, garlic and other available leftovers. Each vegetable has different nutrients, so it's even better to use many kinds of vegetables.
Use Kombu Dashi for:
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Japanese Vegetarian Dashi
Wanting to make an authentic Japanese dish without any animal produce? You can combine ingredients like kombu, shiitake mushroom, and kanpyo (dried gourd strips). Add a little soybeans to the stock to add dimension to the flavor.
Use Kombu Dashi for:
・Vegan Ramen Broth
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