What is it?
Dashi is a soup base or stock which is the foundation for many Japanese dishes. Most elements of Japanese cuisine that require simmering, a soup, or cooking in stock will involve a dashi stock. It is made from Kombu, which is a dried seaweed, and Kastsuobushi, which is dried fish flakes. It is used to provide Umami in a dish, which is the fifth basic taste in Japanese cuisine; savory flavour. Japanese cooking is very much about balancing the five tastes perfectly and harmoniously.
How is it made?
The Kombu seaweed and the Kastuobushi fish flakes are placed in cold water then brought up to simmering. The dashi stock is then strained to provide a clear broth. However, since the 1960s many Japanese households have been using an instant dashi stock instead. The best Japanese restaurants will always make their stock from scratch, and Kombu is carefully sourced - some places in Japan specialise in ageing very fine dried kombu.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can make dashi just using the kombu seaweed; this is called kombu dashi.
Other types of dashi include Niboshi Dashi, which is made from sardines, and Shiitake dashi, which is made from shiitake mushrooms.
How is it used?
As mentioned before, Dashi stock imparts the fifth taste; umami, into Japanese dishes. It is the basis for miso soup when homemade, and is often used as the stock for making ramen noodle soups. Dashi can also be used as a cooking liquor for meats that need to be cooked in water.
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