Jan 18
2010

How To Make Dashi (Basic Japanese Sea Stock)–No instant dashi granules included.

in Japanese, Recipes By Region, Recipes by Type, Seafood, Soup & Stew

Making miso soup consists of 3 steps:

1) Making dashi.
2) Cooking the vegetables, fish, and other ingredients in the dashi.
3) Adding the miso just before serving.

Today we’ll be focusing on step 1–making the dashi. Dashi is a clear sea stock which doesn’t really even taste fishy at all when prepared correctly.   This may sound intimidating, but if you stick with me, you’ll see how quick and easy it is!  Dashi is much easier to make than other types of stock that you might be familiar with, like chicken stock.  If you have the necessary ingredients (THREE!) and 20 minutes, you can make dashi.  Some of the instant dashi granules aren’t too bad, but many of them contain MSG (monosodium glutamate) and other undesirable chemicals.  Plus, once you’ve made dashi from scratch, you’ll never want to go back because the flavor is so much better and you’ll only be sacrificing a few extra minutes of time in the process.

Dashi

There are actually different kinds of dashi.  Dashi can be made using one or more of these things: kombu (kelp), katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), iriko/niboshi (dried baby sardines), and dried shiitake mushrooms.  For the purpose of introducing you to homemade dashi, we’ll start with the most common combination, which is that of kombu and katsuobushi.

Kombu is a type of kelp that is harvested and dried in the sun.   Kombu is rich with minerals, vitamins, protein, and dietary fiber.  Kombu can be found in Japanese and Asian food stores and some natural-food stores.  It can also be found online.  Asian Grocer is a great place to look.  Amazon.com also carries some options.

Kombu (kelp)

Katsuobushi, dried bonito flakes, are also rich in minerals, vitamins and protein.  The flakes are made by shaving wispy thin flakes with a special tool from a bonito fish that has been filleted, boned, boiled, smoked, and dried in the sun.

Katsuobushi--dried bonito fish flakes

The flakes are wonderful and rich in smoky flavor.  Like kombu, katsuobushi can be found in Japanese and Asian food stores, some natural-food stores, and online.  Asian Grocer and Amazon.com both carry several options.

Packaged katsuobushi

The first time you use your kombu and katsuobushi to make dashi, your dashi is called ichiban dashi, or “first sea stock.”  You can then use that same kombu and katsuobushi again to make niban dashi, or “second sea stock.”  Niban dashi has a less refined flavor and a cloudier appearance than ichiban dashi, but is still perfect for use in miso soups and a variety of other dishes, making homemade dashi very economical.  It’s important to note that the ingredients should not be cooked longer than specified, otherwise the stock develops a bitter flavor and becomes cloudy.  Also, if you are going to reuse the ingredients to make niban dashi, you should do it immediately after making ichiban dashi, as kombu and katsuobushi will spoil quickly once they have been cooked.

Making dashi is so easy because you really don’t have much to do—the ingredients do the work for you.  You start out by soaking a piece of kombu in some water.  You are basically steeping as much flavor as you can out of the kombu.  So far so good, right?

Soaking the kombu

Next you put the pot with your water and kombu in it on the stove and cook it until just before the water starts to boil, and then you take it off the heat and add your katsuobushi, and let all of that sit and steep for a couple more minutes.  You still haven’t really done a thing here….

Add katsuobushi to stock

Then you pour the stock through a lined strainer (a coffee filter is my weapon of choice) into a clean container and it’s ready to use!

Pour dashi through a lined strainer

At this point you should be laughing because you are realizing how dead easy making dashi is.  Niban dashi is even easier.  You just throw all that kombu and katsuobushi back in the pot with some more water, simmer it over low heat for 10 minutes, strain the stock again, and you’re done!

Ichiban Dashi

Print This Recipe

Ichiban Dashi (First Sea Stock)

Makes 4 cups

4 cups water
16 — 20 square inches of kombu*
1/2 cup loosely packed katsuobushi

1. Place the water and the kombu in a pot and let the kombu soak for about 15 minutes.  Place the pot over medium heat.  Right before the water starts to boil (watch for bubbles starting to break around the edge of the pot), remove the pot from the heat and scatter the katsuobushi over the surface of the water.

2. After 3 or 4 minutes (the katsuobushi will have sunk to the bottom of the pot by this point), strain the stock through a strainer lined with a tightly woven cotton cloth or a coffee-filter.

3. Refrigerate the stock in a tightly covered container for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.**

* If you would like to weigh out your kombu (I usually eyeball it)–somewhere between 0.45-ounces or 0.6 ounces (13-18 grams) is good!  Of course, you can always go with more or less depending on your tastes.

** Sources disagree on whether ichiban dashi can be frozen.  Some say that it can be frozen, while others argue that the stock loses its aroma/flavor when frozen, so it’s best to use it when it’s fresh.  It’s up to you!

Niban Dashi (Second Sea Stock)

Makes about 4 cups

4 cups water
Kombu and katsuobushi used in ichiban dashi

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a pot.  Place the pot over low heat and cook the mixture for 10 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and then strain the stock through a strainer lined with tightly woven cotton cloth or a coffee-filter.

2. Refrigerate the stock in a tightly covered container for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.


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Coming Next: We will add ONE more ingredient to make the basic broth for miso soup.  Any guesses? Hmmm…guess it wouldn’t be miso soup without the miso!

{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

The Cooking Ninja January 20, 2010 at 10:34 am

That’s how my Japanese & Korean friends make their stock. :) But sometimes it’s hard to even find these in Asian store in some of the foreign cities we live in.

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) January 20, 2010 at 10:48 am

The Cooking Ninja– Yes, unfortunately ordering ingredients may be the only option for some people!

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Paula - bell'alimento January 20, 2010 at 10:42 am

Who knew it was so easy ; )

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Diana@Spain in Iowa January 20, 2010 at 11:17 am

Rachael, Awesome! I’ve seen both of those ingredients at my local Asian grocer. I’ll for sure be picking them up!

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) January 20, 2010 at 11:44 am

Diana– Excellent! I expect a full report! :) Better yet, take pictures of your trip to the grocer, etc. so we can enjoy your adventure too!

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cocopuff1212 January 20, 2010 at 11:40 am

Coffee filter! Now I think you’re genius.

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) January 20, 2010 at 11:43 am

cocopuff1212– Hahaha, why thank you! Can I add that to my “official title”? :)

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Sarah, Maison Cupcake January 20, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I’m finding these miso posts really interesting, I often see japanese ingredients in my local health food store but never know what to do with them. Now I’m getting an idea how to use them. I love japanese food but never really made it myself before.

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Rasa Malaysia January 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I ran out of kombu, I need to buy some. I got some oden ingredients but no kombu to make dashi stock. It’s perfect to have oden in this crappy weather.

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LollyChops January 20, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Sounds simple enough…. but those ingredients… whew. I am guessing my Tom Thumb might not have them. I will have to track down that grocery I told you about!

HUGS…can’t wait to see what’s next!

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Christine @ Fresh Local and Best January 20, 2010 at 4:20 pm

I didn’t know that dashi was that simple to make. I even have all of the ingredients at home! This post is very helpful!

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Gaelle@whatareyoufeedingyourkidsthesedays.com January 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Now you got me to want to get started immediately… but unfortunately, this is not the kind of products I keep handy in my kitchen (yet!). Will definitively go to an Asia supermarket to find them. Thanks!

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Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction January 20, 2010 at 7:55 pm

This looks like something I can handle! I will have to find the ingredients so I can give this a try… Yum!

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small cabin plans January 21, 2010 at 12:52 am

So this is how it is done! I can now make my own. I don’t have to groceries and buy some which are not that good tasting.

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Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite January 21, 2010 at 5:12 am

Wow – I am so intrigued that it’s so easy to make. And I am sure that I will be able to find those ingredients here in Chinatown… Thanks for posting Rachael!

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Mrs Beans January 21, 2010 at 5:17 am

Thank you so much for this! I usually only get REAL (vs instant) miso either at my mom’s house or a restaurant. It’s about time I started making it myself!

p.s. The coffee filter is genius!

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Juls January 21, 2010 at 7:29 am

Rachael, you’re my saviour! OK, so I must run (tomorrow, today I’m sick at home) to the shop and buy kombu and katsuobushi.. finally I understand their role in the plot, ah ah!
My ultimate miso soup is every day nearer!

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Kelly @ EvilShenanigans January 21, 2010 at 9:53 am

It is really a lot easier than people think, and homemade is SO much better than the instant/granular dashi. Lovely write-up!

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Su-yin January 21, 2010 at 11:46 am

Never realised it was this simple, thanks for the recipe. Will have to try it out soon.

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Kris Cameron January 22, 2010 at 1:06 pm

thank you so much for posting this recipe, now I can make my own dashi! I dont suppose you happen to know how many ounces of kombu 16-20 square is?

Thanks a bunch!

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) January 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Kris– Just measured it out (I usually eyeball it)–somewhere between 0.45-ounces or 0.6 ounces (13-18 grams) is good! Of course, you can always go with more or less depending on your tastes. Hope that helps!

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abumaia February 21, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Just so you know, MSG isn’t the big bad boogieman of cooking that people have made it out to be. It’s just a harmless taste-enhancer that got framed for people’s “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” It really is ok to use MSG. It makes things taste better.

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Richard Pyne September 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm

@abumaia, I suggest you read “Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills” to find out just exactly what MSG does in your brain.

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WillowTree November 30, 2013 at 3:31 am

MSG used to be *made* from Kombu , so this recipe almost certainly contains just as much glutamate (what MSG turns into once dissolved) as the store bought kind. But as Abumaia suggests, I wouldn’t worry – if your body reacted badly to the stuff, you’d already know: glutamates are present in high quantities in seaweed, soy, tomatoes and parmesan cheese. (on the other hand, if Italian and Asian food make you ill, now you know why!)

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Briferg January 19, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Willow Tree is right, the whole realization of Glutamate aka MSG, came from Kombu, Katsuobushi, Shitake, Soy sauce etc. The very term Umami comes from the earthy flavor that glutamate products impart to other ingredients. MSG is a compound realized from what you get from the natural world. Sodium Chloride is still salt. Anything consumed to much is probably bad. Food without salt is considered unseasoned, too much and you retain water and other health issues. But without salt, animals and humans die. Salt was currency in the ancient world, hence “worth his weight in salt”.

When you get “uncured bacon” at Trader Joe’s it contains celery seed, another source of glutamate. You feel good because you don’t have MSG – but celery seed is full of it. It is a shell game.

The author of “Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills” is Dr. Russell Blaylock. If his claims are accurate, then all of the people in Japan should have more of the diseases that he ascribes to MSG since Dashi which is full of Glutamate is the basis of so many of their dishes. Japanese population always seemed pretty healthy to me. Dr. Blaylock is also against vaccinations so there is a bit of controversy here. I don’t know if he is right, but he has his detractors.

This is a good link on the subject of Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, which is the first time the anti MSG meme became public. I remember it happening. http://tinyurl.com/lhkefab

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Maria May 18, 2010 at 7:28 am

Great tips! Thanks for the helpful post!

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ivoryhut May 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

Totally bookmarking this post and printing it out. My mom just gave me 3 pounds of miso (she kinda buys in bulk even when she doesn’t have to), and I’ve been wanting to make miso soup without cheating. I’m fortunate enough to live close enough to a few Asian supermarkets, and now I know exactly what I need to pick up. Thanks!

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Maggy May 18, 2010 at 8:50 am

This looks great! I think you’ve made it look quite easy. I’m in!

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Tracy May 18, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Great post! I’ll have to give it a try!

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Michelle {Brown Eyed Baker} May 18, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Great post! I love Japanese food but making it at home intimidates me a bit. Reading all of your posts makes seem much more doable! :)

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Jen @ How To: Simplify May 19, 2010 at 8:37 am

You make Japanese cooking very approachable. I’ve always been a little too timid to try it. Ever since I started following your blog I’ve become so inspired!

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Cookin' Canuck May 19, 2010 at 11:27 am

This is such an interesting post, Rachael. You really make the process of making dashi sound easy.

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Sewfordough August 3, 2010 at 7:13 am

I’ve made this stock before, not knowing what it was called, but I chop up the kombu and put it back in the soup. Then, I add the miso and sometimes some mushrooms and eat it that way. I figure the kombu is good for you, even if it has a rubbery texture. Do you ever make it this way?

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Candees August 4, 2010 at 4:31 am

First, thank you so much for deconstructing dashi…I cannot wait to give it a try. I do have a quick question for you though.

We are vegetarian, and I’d like to use shiitake instead of bonita flakes. Could you give me an estimate of how much (either by weight or piece) to use? Also, I assume you reconstitute the mushrooms directly in the hot water, i.e., we are not double boiling the mushrooms, is that correct?

Thanks again!

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) August 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm

@Candees — I would use approximately 8 dried shiitake mushrooms (you can vary this greatly depending on your taste!). I would start by soaking the kombu (use the same amount) in water in a covered pot overnight for maximum flavor. Then about 30 minutes before you want to make your dashi, I would add the mushrooms to the same water to let them soak. After 30 minutes, put the pot over medium high heat. Right before the water starts to boil, remove the kombu, then let the liquid boil for about 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and strain the stock through a strainer lined with a tightly woven cotton cloth or a coffee-filter. I then like to slice the shiitake mushrooms and use them in soup!

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Tetra August 9, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Thank you so much for posting this recipe! Can’t wait to try it. I have just ordered the ingredients through Amazon! THANKS!!!

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Charmaine @ Speakeasy Kitchen November 13, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I had no idea it was so easy. Thanks for the enlightenment.

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Esther November 22, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Hello

Can i keep the dashi stock in the fridge?

Thanks.

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) November 29, 2010 at 11:29 am

@Esther, Yes! It will keep for about one week in the fridge.

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Clara January 8, 2011 at 8:29 am

First time attempting to make miso soup, and this was so easy and tasted great! though I put too much miso at first and was glad I had some more dashi left to even it up…haha

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sarah October 28, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I am excited to try this. I went to my sushi place tonight and had a bowl. I am originally from Cali and miss all the great Japanese food I got there. I had forgotten how much I loved miso soup and once I was home I knew where to look for a recipe ;) I was wondering if you could freeze the dashi? I am going to have to order all my stuff online but am super excited to give it a go. I am sure it will become a staple here, thanks so much!!!

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Wati November 2, 2011 at 12:23 am

Thank you for posting the basic dashi recipe. Very easy and helpful!

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Carl Bennett February 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Oh sure. That’s why whenever I eat anything with MSG in it I get phlegmy, lose my balance, get un-coordinated and generally feel like crap. No, its marvellous stuff MSG. Everyone should eat loa
ds of it, all the time. Everyone I don’t like, anyway.

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Lizzy February 28, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Very helpful instructions! Any idea how long dashi lasts in the fridge? I’m not always in the mood to make it . . . Also, once the dashi is made, can you boil it? Or will boiling still yield a bitter taste?

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) March 2, 2012 at 5:47 pm

@Lizzy — Dashi will last usually for up to 4 days tightly covered in the refrigerator. Once it is made it can be boiled! The bitterness only comes from bringing it to a boil while the kombu is still in it.

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David May 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm

What is the final difference between first sea stock and second? Seems as though the second broth would be lighter/weaker?

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm

@David — The second is actually a bit more robust. The concept in making first stock is to extract flavors at lower temperatures, which helps keeps the flavor delicate, and the stock beautiful in color and clarity. First stock is usually used in lighter soups, where a delicate and milk stock is essential. Second stock has to simmer for a longer period of time to extract the remaining flavor, which results in a more robust flavor and a stock that is cloudy. Second stock can still be used for a soup like miso soup, where the miso is robust enough itself, that you won’t normally be able to tell whether or not a first or second stock was used.

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Andrew September 17, 2012 at 9:40 am

Chanko Nabe, Miso Soup, Oden. The uses for this broth are endless in terms of Japanese cooking. Thank you for showing me how to use the Kombu. At some chanko nabe restaurants, there is a piece of kombu sitting in the bottom of the cooking pot the whole time. Is that normal? It tasted great, but according to this post, leaving the Kombu in the pot would ruin the flavor. Best nabe ever was fugu nabe in Sapporo. Fugu is far and away my favorite fish to eat. Too bad it could easily kill me if not prepared properly.

Thanks very much for posting this recepie.

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) September 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm

@Andrew — I’ve also seen this. In a situation like chanko nabe that has lots of different contributing flavors, the bitterness released by kombu would be less noticeable, and in fact may be welcomed! Kombu starts to become slimy and starts releasing bitterness once the temperature rises above about 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoiding the release of bitterness is especially important in a dashi that will be used in a clear soup (suimono) where the flavors are very delicate.

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Ewen September 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Hey Fuji Mama, thanks for the great recipe, but I had a question about the Niban Dashi. How long can you keep the katsuobushi and kombu from Ichiban Dashi before you lose the flavor. Do you have to make the Niban Dashi right away, or can you keep them until say, next weekend when you need more dashi.

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) January 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm

@Ewen — If you put the katsuobushi and kombu in separate sealed containers and keep them in the refrigerator, the kombu will be usuable for about 7 days. The katsuobushi will perish quicker, so you would just need to monitor it—if it starts to change smell, etc. toss it!

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Hal November 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Any self-respecting Japanese housewife would probably smack me, but here’s what I do now: I simmer the kombu and katsuobushi for 5 minutes before straining. Ichiban and niban dashi in one! I then add the wakame, tofu and whatever (mushrooms, noodles, whatever) and bring back to a boil and add the miso and scallions. Delicious!

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elise December 28, 2012 at 1:04 am

I love this!
Some easy I never thought about making it myself as I once read it’s hard to do – not true!

Thanks for translating the kombu into weight!
Can you also tell me what 1/2 cup loosely packed katsuobushi is in oz and specifically in grams?

I just bought a big bag of bonito flakes and will make dashi myself!

OH I now see that you do not really reply to people’s questions (which is fine) but maybe someone else can answer this instead :)

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) January 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm

@elise — 1/2 cup loosely packed katsuobushi is approximately .20 ounces or 5 grams. However, it is customary to eyeball the measurements for both kombu and katsuobushi. I usually just use a small handful!

I always try to reply to people’s questions, however a recent update in software has caused a glitch that erased most of my comments. The glitch has been repaired, but not all of my responses have been restored. I’m currently working on replacing as much as I can of what was lost, but considering I started writing this blog almost 6 years ago, I’m sure some of those responses may be permanently lost.

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Tita Sokoloff February 17, 2013 at 6:54 am

Thank you for this brilliant recipe/post! I have been avoiding making many Japenese foods for a while now, since I refuse to buy any packaged and prepared sauces and broths due to the chemicals and additives (such as msg). Dashi is such an important ingredient in so many Japanese foods, and I have given them up for so long due to not having this one basic ingredient. I am really excited!

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Kate March 18, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Thanks, this is awesome! I can’t wait to give this a try. I’ve been meaning to perfect the art of ramen-making, and the more from-scratch as possible, the better.

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Janice May 30, 2013 at 9:18 am

Wow, I can’t believe it’s that easy! Thank you for this recipe and instruction! I had always loved miso soup but always just bought the dashi granules, I had no idea it would be this easy! I am definitely going to try this.

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 30, 2013 at 6:35 pm

@Janice — Yay! I’m so glad! Not only is it easy, but it’s delicious too! Here’s to your future dashi making adventures!

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Gabe August 8, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Hi everyone, apologies for possibly a dumb question, but I noticed there are a variety of miso pastes available, so which one would I use in miso soup? I’ve been buying the addictive Aka Miso soup packages and would love to have a mug of soup without all the salt it comes with.

And thanks for the Dashi recipe.

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BB August 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I’m glad I stopped by this site before I bought dashi granules as the recipe I have called for granules. (As you can see, I’m about to make my first miso soup but I needed to get all the ingredients together). Thanks for the very clear directions… Apparently the red miso is more pungent (hotter? stronger?) than the white or yellow. Since I didn’t know, I bought the yellow…By the way.How long does the miso last in the refrigerator?

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) August 17, 2013 at 10:23 am

Although miso containers are usually marked with an expiration date, miso can last for about a year in the refrigerator if it is covered properly and kept cold!

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Vivienne September 5, 2013 at 6:07 am

For the dried sardines, do you need cut off their heads, split them and gut them according to this recipe: http://japanesefood.about.com/od/soup/r/niboshidashi.htm

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) September 6, 2013 at 10:27 am

Yes, you definitely need to remove their heads and gut them. If you don’t, the stock will have a bitter flavor.

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danberman November 1, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I am lacking the kombu. I do have some leftover sheets of the Nori seaweed I used to wrap musubi with last week. Can I use it as a replacement?

thanks in advance,

danielb

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) November 4, 2013 at 10:21 am

Nori doesn’t work as a substitute as it is completely different from kombu. Kombu is very thick and tough and produces a natural MSG. There is no real substitute for kombu, except for adding MSG, which I prefer not to do.

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Cougar Cat November 30, 2013 at 12:10 pm

The crazy thing about dried bonito flake? You can find it – as a cat treat! I’ve seen it packaged as such and it is The Same Thing. Somebody out there is getting bonito flake in bulk, and stuffing it into cat treat packaging. So if you can’t find it in your local Asian grocery, give Petco or PetSmart a try.

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pete December 11, 2013 at 2:57 am

Thanks, my miso is really good now. I’ve often kept (well sealed) for a week or two in the fridge but had a bad stomach today and wondering if this could be keeping it too long?… I know you say 4 days but the taste is still good after a longer time but it throws up more froth when reheating (which I refilter). Do you say 4 days because of the change in flavour or a risk to health?

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) December 11, 2013 at 10:32 am

I say 4 days for both reasons. The quality of flavor will start to decline, the longer the dashi is kept in the refrigerator. 4 days is also a safe window in which to eat the dashi. I wouldn’t keep dashi past 6 or 7 days.

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pete December 11, 2013 at 11:24 am

Thanks for your time. My guests appreciate it to as my Miso is the best in town :)

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chill April 12, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Thank you very much. I was trying to find a miso recipe on the Internet, and yours is first without any instant granules. Finally someone who makes their soup properly. :)

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Fuji Mama (Rachael) April 12, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Aaaaaw, thanks! enjoy!

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