stock science part 1: dashi

Dashi is one of the most essential ingredients in Japanese cuisine for all kinds of soups, sauces and simmering liquids. Instant dashi-powder is an absolute no-go because it is full of artificial stuff and does not taste remotely as good as your own easy to make stock.

There are several types for different uses, vegetarian and non-vegetarian:

  1. Kombu-Dashi: made only with kelp.
  2. Katsuo-Dashi: the most common kind, made with kombu and bonito flakes.
  3. Shiitake-Dashi:made from dried shiitake mushrooms, with or without kelp.
  4. Niboshi-Dashi: made with dried baby-sardines and kelp, strong taste.

According to Kaiseki-master Yoshihiro Murata, the key to a fine dashi is soft water and low-temperature simmering of the kelp at 60 degrees celsius. Use a Britta-filter or previously boiled water as well as a temperature-controlled slow-cooker if you can!

The common instruction to wipe the kombu sheets with a cloth before using them is meant to remove sand, which I have never seen on store-bought kelp and should not really be necessary. Do not remove the white residue on the kelp, that’s what produces a lot of the umami!

It is a good idea to make primary (ichiban dashi) and secondary dashi (niban dashi), by re-using the ingredients after extracting the stock for the first time. The resulting second stock can be used as a simmering liquid, for example for furofuki daikon.

Left-over kelp is great  to make tsukudani. You can also freeze smaller amounts in order to make a secondary dashi at a later point. Left-over shiitake mushrooms can be sliced and used in soups.

Dashi keeps in the fridge for up to a week. You can also freeze it in large containers for use in soups or alternatively in ice-cube trays in order to have small portions for use in sauces etc.

RECIPES

1. kombu dashi

2l soft water
35 grs konbu

Wipe the kombu sheets lightly with a dry cloth. In a pot, raise the temperature slowly until it reaches 60 degrees Celsius and simmer for one hour. Do not raise temperature too quickly and don’t let it get too hot, as the the dashi can get bitter or slimy. Strain through a sieve and a cheesecloth.

2. katsuo dashi

2l kombu dashi
55 grs of shaved bonito flakes

Use strained kombu dashi prepared as above, raise temperature to 80 degrees Celsius. Be careful not to let it boil. Take off the heat and quickly add 50 grs of shaved bonito flakes. When they are soaked and start to drop to the bottom of the pot, leave to infuse for 10 seconds more and strain through a sieve and cheesecloth. Do not squeeze the flakes, let them strain by themselves.

3. shiitake-dashi

6 dried shiitake mushrooms
200 ml soft water

Soak shiitake mushrooms in cold water, for a few hours or best over night in the fridge. Use the rehydrated mushrooms in other recipes such as in soups. If you are in a hurry you can use warm water to soak them quicker.

4. niboshi-dashi

15 small dried niboshi baby-sardines
1l kombu dashi (primary or secondary)

Remove the heads and guts of the sardines, as they would make the stock bitter. Soak  in cold  kombu dashi for 30 to 60 minutes. Raise temperature to 80 degrees, skim off any foam that forms and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve and cheesecloth.

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