Cook the Japanese Way! Easy Dashi Recipes That Anyone Can Follow!

[Local College Students Tell All!] Japanese cuisine is recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Its foundations were built and developed in Kyoto. Dashi (Japanese soup stock) is the ingredient that lies at the heart of Japanese cuisine. It is such an important part of Japanese cuisine that you wouldn’t be able to start cooking without it! Get ready for a comprehensive introduction to this indispensable part of Japanese cuisine!

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Different Types of Dashi

First, you need to know about the different types of Dashi. In general, there are 4 types.

1. Katsuo Dashi

This is a Dashi made from Katsuobushi. Katsuobushi is made from boiling Katsuo (skipjack tuna), drying it, and then smoking it. You'll usually find it at the supermarket as very thin flakes or in powder form. Its main characteristic is its rich flavor and sweetness. 

Some dishes that make use of Katsuo Dashi are:

  • Sumashi-jiru (Dashi-based Japanese soup)
  • Chawanmushi (Dashi is mixed with egg and steamed with chicken, shiitake mushrooms, and other fillings)

2. Konbu Dashi

Konbu Dashi is made with a type of seaweed called Konbu (kelp) that's been dried. It is recognizable by its elegant, but understated flavor. The taste will differ depending on where the Konbu is from and what type of Konbu it is.

Some dishes that make use of Konbu Dashi are:

  • Horenso no Ohitashi (boiled spinach dressed with soy sauce and dashi)
  • Soup base for Nabe (hot pot) dishes

3. Iriko (Niboshi) Dashi

This Dashi is made with small dried fish, like anchovies. These small fish are called Iriko in Kyoto and other parts of the Kanto region, but in other parts of Japan like Tokyo, people call them Niboshi. This Dashi is a little less sour, but more fragrant than Katsuo Dashi.

Some dishes that make use of Iriko Dashi are:

  • Miso Shiru (miso soup, the soul food of the Japanese people)
  • Soup for noodle dishes like Udon and Soba

4. Shiitake Dashi

This Dashi is made by rehydrating dried Shiitake mushrooms in water. Shiitake mushrooms have been one of the most commonly eaten mushrooms in Japan since ancient times. The Dashi has a characteristically strong flavor full of sweetness. After making the Dashi, the mushroom can be used as an ingredient in simmered dishes.

Some dishes that make use of Shiitake Dashi are:

  • Nimono (simmered dishes) where chicken and vegetables are cooked together

Besides these 4 types of Dashi, there are Dashi that are made from dried Saba (mackerel) and Tobiuo (flying fish). In short, there are many varieties of Dashi! There are also variations where you use a combination of Konbu and Iriko, or Konbu and Shiitake. These types of Dashi with more than one ingredient are called Awase Dashi.

How to Make Dashi

Now, find out how you can make your own Dashi with the ingredients that were introduced earlier!

Making Iriko (Niboshi) Dashi

 1. To make top-quality Dashi with a clear taste, remove the head and innards of the fish.

2. Put the fish in water and cover the container with cling wrap. Leave it in the fridge overnight or for several hours. Congratulations, you've just done a simple cold water infusion (Mizudashi)!

3. Alternatively, dump the fish into a pot of water and boil at medium heat. Scoop out any scum that forms, and boil for around 5 minutes. Remove the fish and the Dashi is ready!

Making Konbu Dashi

1. Wet a clean cloth, and then squeeze out the excess water. Use this to lightly wipe the surface of the Konbu. But be careful! The white crystals that are the source of the Konbu's sweetness will get wiped off if you wipe too hard.

2. Like Iriko (Niboshi) Dashi, you can soak the Konbu in a bowl of water, cover the bowl with cling wrap, and leave it in the fridge for around 6 hours. This is an easy way to make Dashi. The Dashi can be kept in the fridge for around 1 week, but it's still better to use it quickly.

3. You can also put Konbu in a pot of water and boil it over low fire. Remove the Konbu when the water starts to bubble. This is another a common way of preparing Konbu Dashi. Take care not to boil the Konbu with strong heat!

Convenient Dashi That You Can Get From Supermarkets

Making your Dashi from scratch results in a delicious soup, but it does take some effort. There are convenient ways to make Dashi that are beginner-friendly. You can buy such things from supermarkets and convenience stores, and they make great gifts as well!

Dashi Granules/Powder

Most of these come with salt, sugar, and other seasonings already added, so they're really convenient to use!

Dissolve the powder or granules in water, or add directly to stir frys and simmered dishes to easily reproduce the taste of Japanese cuisine. For example, dissolve the Dashi granules/powder in hot water, add in some cut tofu, and you'll have Osuimono (clear soup)!

The granules/powder also come in Katsuo, Konbu, Niboshi, Shiitake and other flavors, so you'll have plenty to choose from.

Price: A box of 7 (5g) packs will cost approximately 200 yen

Dashi Packs

Compared to granules or powder, Dashi packs don't have salt or other seasonings added to them. This gives a taste that's even closer to Dashi that's made from scratch. You can just throw the packs away after you make the Dashi, which is an additional plus point, since you won't need to worry about powder getting all over your kitchen!

Price: A pack of 16 (8g) bags will cost approximately 800 yen

Besides these, there are also types that are seasoned with soy sauce or other seasonings, and also liquid types that come in a bottle!

Make lots of Dashi Jiru (Dashi soup) ahead of time, freeze them, and store them like ice cubes. They last for 1 to 3 weeks, and you'll be able to get Dashi conveniently at any time! Get to know "Dashi culture", and reproduce the delicious foods you tasted during your Japan trip at home!

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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We're a group of local college students in Kyoto that produce information about Kyoto's charms to release to the world. We write articles about Kyoto using information that only locals could know. We hope you enjoy our work!
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