Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen

Making Vegan Dashi

精進出汁

 

Dashi, Japanese stock, is most commonly made with katsuobushi (dried fish flakes), also known as bonito flakes, as shown in the ‘Making Dashi’ episode of the ‘Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen’ series.

However, vegan dashi, also known as shōjin dashi, has long been an important part of Zen Buddhist cuisine, shōjin ryōri, in Japan. The plant-based diet is an expression of Buddhist devotion to the principle of non-violence towards all sentient beings. Therefore, shōjin dashi is predominantly made from land and sea vegetables such as kombu, a type of edible kelp.

In this episode of the ‘Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen’ series, Michelin-listed chef Shimizu Akira of AKIRA restaurant shares his knowledge and recipe for vegan dashi.

Dishes made with vegan dashi

There are many kinds of vegan dashi, such as kombu dashi, dried shiitake dashi, and dried tomato dashi.

Akira suggests that delicious vegan dashi can also be made using ginger and garlic or by slow-cooking vegetables.

At AKIRA restaurant, vegan dashi is used to make nimono (simmered/stewed vegetables) for the bento boxes and kombu and dried tomato-based miso soup. According to Akira, it has a richness that matches that of bonito-based soups. Kombu dashi can also be used to give a richer taste to tomato soup or other creamy soups.

Kombu and shiitake dashi 

Extracted from dried kombu, a type of edible kelp, kombu dashi is light, slightly salty, and does not interfere with flavours of other ingredients.

Glutamic acid found in kombu intensifies flavour when combined with other umami-rich ingredients.

Vegan dashi can also be made from dried shiitake. There are two types: the thicker-fleshed donko which is picked during budding and has a rounded cap, and the thinner, flatter-capped kōshin which is picked after blooming. When making vegan dashi, Akira recommends using donko which produces a thicker stock.

Preparing vegan dashi

To make vegan dashi, place 25g of kombu and three dried shiitake in 1 litre of water.

It is preferable to use mineral water rather than tap water.

At the restaurant, Akira prefers to use kombu from Rausu in Hokkaidō, and dried shiitake from Ōita Prefecture.

Leave the kombu and shiitake to soak in the water overnight (for at least 6 hours) in the fridge. Take care not to steep the ingredients for too long as this can make dashi cloudy and strong-smelling.

To finish, remove the kombu and dried shiitake and refrigerate the remaining liquid.

Vegan dashi can be stored in the fridge for up to three days in a clean, airtight container.