Dashi is the base of many Japanese dishes. Found in many noodle soup bases and dips; one of my favorite Japanese noodle dish is zaru soba, the cold buckwheat noodles dipped into tsuyu sauce—such a hot-weather treat. I've learned to make my own dashi over the years recalling how my mum did it when I was a kid. Mostly, I remember eating the kombu (dried kelp) after it was pulled out of the stock and laid aside. Maybe it was intended for the trash bin but it always ended up in my stomach. I've always loved the taste of the sea and maybe that's where it began...in the kitchen.
This is a great vegetarian stock. It is a light broth that is rich in glutamates, thus producing more umami (pleasant savory taste) flavors. If you buy the packaged dashi which sells in powdered or granule form, and also packaged like tea sachets, they usually contain MSG. So if you are allergic to MSG or just wince at the acronyms, you can whip it up at home naturally in large stock and freeze it for future use. Just so you know MSG is synthesized to replicate the naturally occurring glutamates in kombu, so it's a synthesized flavor enhancer.
Kombu, dried bonito flakes, dried shiitake mushrooms, and small dried fish are other elements to making dashi. The kombu used alone is the most basic dashi and a great vegetarian option. Stay tuned for the next post on how to make katsuobushi dashi which is a fish-based dashi.
INGREDIENTS//Yields approx. 1 liter
• 1 piece kombu (about 12 inches long)
• 1 liter water
In a medium size glass mixing bowl, steep your kombu in the water and put it in the fridge overnight. You can cut it down to fit your bowl.
Take your bowl of steeped kombu and transfer it into a medium size pot along with the water.
On medium heat, simmer the kombu until boiling point.
Quickly fish out the kombu (set it aside for a second stock) and turn down the heat.
Turn off the heat and let it cool down.
Refigerate the stock in a tightly sealed container for use up to four days to a week.
The kombu can be used again (right away) after the first stock to make a second stock referred to as niban dashi. The first stock is called ichiban dashi.