Did you know that Dashi is the single most important element required to cook authentic Japanese cuisine? It is the foundation of soups, hotpots & stews (known as "Nabe"), sauces or dressings; in fact it often replaces water when blanching and simmering vegetables!
There are three basic ingredients to make an initial stock which is known as Ichiban Dashi (the dashi we are focusing on in this blog), these three ingredients are Katsuobushi (Bonito Flakes), Kombu and Water.
To make 2L of Ichiban Dashi you will need:
1 Strip of Kombu (dried kelp), about 60 x 200 mm (thicker variety is best)
2 Large handfuls/ around 40g of Katsuobushi
2L Filtered Water
Dashi stock can also be frozen for up to two months so if you only need a small amount don't worry!
How to make Ichiban Dashi:
Firstly you should take a clean, damp cloth and gently wipe down the Kombu. Try not to remove too much of the white powdery substance on the surface
After wiping the Kombu you should place it in a large pot and add 2 litres of cold water, in Japan they have very good quality mountain water so if it is possible and if you are posh enough to own a water filterer then use filtered water, this assures of a clean-flavour stock.
Allow the kombu to soak in the water for 30 minutes after this bring the pot over medium-low heat and slowly bring the water to 60-65 degrees celsius, if you don't have a cooks thermometer you should look for a point where a little steam is rising but there are only tiny bubbles on the bottom of the pan that arent breaking the surface of the water.
Keep the Kombu at this heat for 30-40 minutes to release the umami from the kombu. What is umami? I bet that's what you're thinking! Well wonder no more my dashi dominoes, Umami is the so-called “fifth taste” together with sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Umami basically means "pleasant savory taste". After 30-40 minutes you should remove the Kombu and set it aside.
Once the kombu has been removed you should increase the water temperature to about 80 degrees which will then allow it to just begin to simmer however be careful that you do not allow the water to boil, again if you don't have a thermometer just ensure that the water is gently simmering, then turn off the heat.
Once the heat has been turned off evenly sprinkle the Katsuobushi over the surface and allow them to float in the pot until they are just soaked through – this should take just under a minute. Once they are soaked through you need to strain the liquid through a cloth-lined sieve, ensure that you retain the solids and set it aside with the Kombu from earlier to make another stock (Niban Dashi) of which I will discuss in part 2 of my blog.
So there you have it, your very own ichiban dashi. This can now be used in clear soups, sauces or dressings or any other dish that indicates so.
Now dash off! Let us know how you get on with this recipe.
Ingredients for this dish are available from our food shop here: Dashi Stock