Sunday, April 25, 2010

Making Dashi

Okay, I am trying to post more often by giving myself only 15 minutees to write a simple post! Let's see if I can do it.

We talked about a few different recipes that involve dashi, a traditional Japanese kombu and bonito stock. Here is a basic recipe. If you check out any book on Japanese cooking, it will invariably contain dashi in nearly every soup or sauce. It's extremely useful! The dashi granules you can buy are full of MSG. The recipes below are for the whole foods, grandma-style real deal. If you make dashi, double the recipe and freeze it in 1 cup portions. It is perfect for miso soup, cold noodle dishes, etc.

I'll give two recipes below. Katsuobushi, or bonito flakes, are delicious. Buy the bigger flakes for this use. The thinner flakes are used as a condiment on a variety of delicious Japanese dishes (steamed spinach in marinade, soft tofu in marinade, okonomiyaki omelets, etc.).

The following recipe is adapted from The Japanese Kitchen, by Hiroko Shimbo.

Ichiban Dashi (First Fish Stock)

This kind of stock gives you the best nutrients and flavor from the kombu and the bonito. It is also nearly instant. I don't know much about the health properties of bonito, but the Japanese have an amazing average life span, and in the traditional diet dashi would be eaten at least once a day in some form or another. You can check out this website for more info on dashi:

2 quarts water
5 6-inch squares kombu (kelp)
1 cup packed katsuobushi (flaked bonito fish)

  1. Wipe the kombu with a damp cloth. Heat the water and kombu until they nearly boil, over medium heat. Remove the kombu and save it for another use. You can either use this liquid as vegetarian stock (kombu dashi) or proceed with the directions below to make ichiban dashi.
  2. Add the katsuobushi to the kombu dashi and allow to come to a boil (this should only take a few seconds, hopefully). Turn off the heat, skim off the foam, and let the mixture stand for 2 minutes.
  3. Strain the stock through a cheesecloth-lined sieve (I actually just strain it through a strainer usually). Reserve the katsuobushi to make niban dashi (recipe below), if desired.
  4. Ichiban dashi keeps in the fridge up to 4 days, or you can refrigerate it in small portions. I made a bunch of this at the end of both my pregnancies and had lots of delicious, simple miso soup after my kids were born.

Niban Dashi (Second Fish Stock)

This stock has a much more subtle flavor and is best suited for simmered dishes. This is a good way to reuse leftover kombu from cooking beans, etc. You can use fresh katsuobushi if you like.

2 quarts water
Kombu and katsuobushi leftover from making Ichiban Dashi.

Combine all the above ingredients and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Strain and use, refrigerate, or freeze.

Twenty-nine minutes -- whew! Close. I'm getting faster.

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