Dashi is the stock that is the basis for many Japanese dishes and is extremely important in the food regional to Kansai, where I lived. This is because the food there isn’t heavily flavoured with chilli or strong shoyu, as it is in other regions of Japan.
North of Osaka has less reliance on a good dashi stock as they have dishes that are made to be ‘heavy’ to warm the body, as it gets prety cold! Not to say they don’t use dashi – they do, just not in everything! Dashi has a delicate flavour, and I think this is why it isn’t in the heavier dishes – it just gets lost!
There are different types of Dashi – Ichiban dashi/Niban dashi/Konbu dashi/Niboshi Dashi/and more! Here is a recipe for Ichiban dashi/Niban dashi (first, or primary dashi; and second, or secondary dashi). Ichiban dashi is used for clear soups, and niban dashi is used as a basic seasoning – for thick soups, broths and in many other ways. Niban dashi is an economical way to stretch the ingredients a little further. You make ichiban dashi, and then use the strained ingredients again to get every little last scrap of flavour out of them. This is why ichiban dash is used for very pure flavours, and niban dashi is used for things that have other flavours added.
- 1L Cold water
- 30g Konbu (kelp)
- 30g Hana-katsuo (dried bonito flakes)
- Heat the konbu in the water. Don’t let it boil, but take it out just before you get to a simmer. Do this slowly, over about 10 minutes.
- Bring the water to a boil and add the bonito.
- Remove it off the heat after less than a minute and strain.
- Keep the konbu and bonito to make the secondary dashi if you want. Put them into a saucepan with 750mls of water and bring to a gently simmer. Simmer until the stock is reduced by half, remove from the heat and add a handful of fresh bonito flakes.
- Let them steep for a minute and then skim any scum off the stock, and strain.