Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen

Making Dashi


Dashi is a stock that serves as an essential base for many dishes in Japanese cuisine. Different types of dashi are made using a variety of fish and vegetable ingredients, resulting in a wide range of flavours and uses.

The most common types of dashi are katsuo dashi and awase dashi. Katsuo dashi is prepared using katsuobushi (also referred to as bonito flakes); shaved flakes of dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna. Awase dashi is a popular combination of katsuo dashi and kombu, edible kelp. Other types of dashi include niboshi dashi, also known as iriko dashi, made with anchovies, ago dashi, made with flying fish, and the vegan shiitake dashi, made with dried shiitake mushrooms.

In this episode of the ‘Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen’ series, Michelin-listed chef Shimizu Akira of AKIRA restaurant demonstrates how to prepare awase dashi.

Dishes made with dashi

Many popular Japanese dishes are made using dashi; these include miso soup, akadashi (blended red miso), nikujaga (meat & potato stew), osuimono (clear broth), chawanmushi (steamed savoury egg custard), nabemono (hot pots dishes), and takikomi gohan (mixed rice). Dashi can also be mixed with the Japanese flavouring kaeshi to make either a dipping sauce or a soup for soba (buckwheat noodles), as demonstrated in the ‘Flavourings: Kaeshi' episode of the Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen series.

At AKIRA restaurant, dashi is used in dishes such as chawanmushi, wanmono (dishes served in a bowl, typically soups), ramen, and others. Vegan dashi, made with kombu and dried tomatoes, is used in the miso soup and in the bento box nimono (simmered dishes).

Katsuobushi – a key ingredient

Shaved katsuobushi is a key ingredient commonly used to prepare dashi. It is high in inosinic acid which adds a distinct umami flavour.

There are different types of katsuobushi which vary according to the number of times the drying and fermentation process has been repeated, affecting the depth of flavour. The flakes come either thinly or thickly shaved which also affects their flavour and use.

Katsuobushi often comes as pre-shaved flakes; however, it can also be purchased whole and hand-shaved using a Japanese utensil called a katsuobushi kezuriki, as demonstrated by Akira in this episode.

Two popular types of dashi 

Two of the most common types of dashi are katsuo dashi and awase dashi.

Katsuo dashi is made using katsuobushi and has an elegant, aromatic umami flavour.

Awase dashi is a mixed dashi, often used in Japanese cuisine; in the restaurant world in Japan, this dashi is also referred to as katsuo dashi despite being made using both katsuobushi and kombu. Glutamic acid, an amino acid in kombu, and inosinic acid, a nucleic acid in katsuobushi, work well together, producing a stronger sense of umami than when either is used alone.

Preparing awase dashi

When making dashi, Akira advises to always use fresh ingredients, use clean pots and pans to avoid any impurities, and to work quickly.

To follow Akira’s recipe for awase dashi you will need:

20g katsuobushi
10g kombu
1 litre water

Add 1 litre of water and 10g of kombu to a pot and leave to soak for 30–60 minutes.

Bring the mixture to a boil, just until small bubbles start to appear at the bottom of the pot. Then, turn off the heat and remove the kombu.

Reheat the mixture until it boils and add 20g of katsuobushi; then turn off the heat and leave it to steep for two minutes.

Lastly, strain the dashi through a colander and/or cheesecloth and leave to cool.

To store your dashi, use a clean, airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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