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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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….
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!
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 (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.
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!