Many, many years ago, my cousin told me she made udon from homemade dashi. When I asked her about the taste, she said it added more depth to her broth and raved about how delicious it was. Dashi is a simple fish stock frequently used to cook any number of dishes like miso soup, namasu, oden, and katsudon. Dashi is a foundation, just like any other stock.
I grew up with instant dashi, which comes from a packet, in granule form. It never occurred to me to make it from scratch, so I was intrigued by my cousin’s revelation. Could it make that much of a difference? Her comment stuck with me over the years, but I had no reason to make it from scratch…
Until I realized how easy dashi is to make! With only 3 ingredients—one of which is water—there is no reason not to make it at home. Instant dashi is only a little more convenient than homemade and often contains unwanted ingredients like MSG.
Compared to making other types of stock, this is a cinch. You just have to measure the dry ingredients and into the pot they go. I like to double the recipe and freeze a portion of it in plastic bags or containers, usually in 1 or 2-cup increments.
How does the taste compare? You’ll have to make it, incorporate it into a recipe, and judge for yourself.
Makes about 3 ½ cups (850ml)
2 pieces of kombu, about 5 in (12–13 cm) each
0.7 oz (20g) katsuobushi
4.25 cups (1000ml) water
Wipe the kombu with a damp towel. Add it to a large pot with the water and turn the heat to high. If any impurities rise to the surface, quickly remove with a small strainer or paper towel. When small bubbles appear and the water is about to come to the surface, remove the kombu. Let the water come to a boil, then add the katsuobushi. Turn the heat off immediately. Lightly press the tips of your chopsticks into the katsuobushi in a few places, then let sit.
Let the katsuobushi fully sink to the bottom of the pot. Do not stir or agitate, as this will cloud the dashi. Place a strainer in a larger bowl and line it with a paper towel. Carefully pour the dashi through the strainer and into the bowl. Fold the paper towel over into a ball and press lightly to squeeze some of the remaining liquid out.
Adapted from 和食の基本.