What is dashi?
Dashi (出汁 in Japanese) is a broth obtained from konbu algae infused in water. Dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi) are added to further enhance the taste.
This broth is the basis of Japanese cuisine. Although technically, it is a fish and seaweed broth, it is used for vegetable or meat preparations without distinction.
Dashi has become particularly popular in the world over the past twenty years because it is part of the basic composition of the famous miso soup.
To prepare it, a hot dashi is poured over miso paste. This soup is usually served with tofu cubes, chives and a few mushrooms. Some French chefs who are very fond of Japanese cuisine replace the flavor of fish with white wine and shallots with dashi to make sauces that accompany fish dishes.
What is umami?
Katsuobushi, or dried bonito flakes, is a food rich in disonic inosinate, better known as umami. The literal translation of umami is tasty.
We talk about a fifth flavor in addition to sweet, sour, bitter and salty. The term umami had to wait until a 1985 conference to be scientifically recognized. It defines the taste of glutamate and nucleotides.
Umami has no translation, the term is widely used today in culinary jargon around the world. Its fundamental effect would have the ability to balance and round off all the other flavors.
Some great chefs are famous for their ability to use them with great accuracy. Glutamate has been used in cooking since ancient times, such as Roman garum made from anchovy juice.
The Frenchman Brillat-Savarin refers to umami as the osmazome. According to scientists, breast milk naturally contains as much umami as dashi, so we would be constantly looking for this flavor.
What is katsuobushi?
Katsuobushi is obtained from a fish, the bonito, that is close to tuna. The fish is dried to obtain small pinkish-brown chips called hanakatsuo.
There is a version with larger flakes called kezurikatsuo. The heat has the bonito flakes dance, the Japanese call this phenomenon the “dancing fish”.
In addition to dashi, katsuobushi can be used to prepare onigiri (rice balls). It is also used on the famous okonomiyaki omelettes. It is also used as cat food. Katsuobushi is obtained by drying or smoking fish. Only one of the bonito varieties can be used to make katsuobushi.
What is konbu?
Konbu is an alga native to the Sea of Japan and the China Sea. Today, konbu seaweed is mainly grown in Hokkaido.
In addition to its culinary use, konbu seaweed is used to make cosmetics. Konbu seaweed has the highest iodine content of all Japanese seaweed. It would be excellent in the event of a thyroid problem.
How is dashi prepared?
Dashi is extremely simple and quick to prepare, konbu algae are infused in boiling water. The dried bonito flakes are added at the end. The broth is then filtered and can be stored or used immediately.
Nowadays, you can find ready to use dashi and doing it yourself is no longer a common practice, even in Japan. As with the famous cubed broths, dashi is available dehydrated in granular or canned liquid form. This way, families and cooks can always enjoy this aromatic broth. Once prepared, dashi can be kept for a few days in the refrigerator or be frozen.
What are the different types of dashi?
While dashi is almost always associated with the combination of konbu algae and bonito, there are different types. Mushrooms such as shiitake can be used to flavor it. There is also a dashi made from niboshi, small dehydrated infant sardines. It will then be called dashi-katsuobushi, dashi-shiitake or dashi-niboshi.
How is dashi used?
Dashi is used like any other broth. You can concentrate its flavors by reduction, use it to glaze vegetables by adding fat, use it as a base for soup, or poach pasta like the famous udon made from buckwheat flour.
- 10 cups cold water
- 3 oz. katsuobushi dried bonito
- 2 oz. kombu seaweed
- Add the cold water in a large Dutch oven.
- Add the kombu seaweed.
- Heat over medium heat without boiling then lower the temperature, cover and maintain the temperature at 150 F for 1 hour over a very low heat.
- Add the bonito flakes into the broth and raise the temperature to about 185 F without boiling.
- As soon as the bonito flakes go down completely to the bottom of the pot, about 4 minutes, remove from heat.
- Filter the broth.
- Let cool completely.
The dashi broth can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days or for 1 month in the freezer.