Updated: February 25, 2019
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There Wouldn't Be Japanese Cuisine Without Dashi

Dashi, the quintessential ingredient on Japanese cuisine! But what is it exactly? What's in it? How to prepare it? Find out!

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The Birth of Umami

Dashi originated more than 800 years ago from the combination of pure Japanese spring water and kombu—a type of kelp—which contains glutamate, the source of dashi’s savory flavor.
In 1908, the unusual and strong flavor of kelp stock was identified by Kikunae Ikeda as umami, the "fifth flavor", attributed to human taste receptors responding to glutamic acid. Since then, the term "umami" has been used worldwide and has become the holy grail of Japanese cuisine.
umami
Taste areas of the human tongue.

What is Dashi?

Dashi (出汁, だし) is a class of soup and cooking stock widely used in Asian cuisine.
Dashi forms the base for miso soup, clear broth, noodle broth and many kinds of simmering liquid...in other words, every possible Japanese dish!
It is used to accentuate the savory flavor known as umami.
dashi1
The golden broth called dashi.

What's in the Dashi?

dashi2
Ingredients used to make dashi.
Dashi can be made from kombu (dried kelp), katsuobushi (dried and smoked bonito/skipjack tuna shaved into thin flakes), iriko or niboshi (anchovies or sardine), or a combination of two or all of them.

The preparation is very simple:
1. In a pot with cold water, add some kombu and let it soak for a few minutes.
2. Boil the water and turn off the heat. Then add the dry sardines - but don't forget to take off the heads, as they have a bitter taste.
3. Add chopped shitake mushrooms and let the umami seep out!
4. Remove the ingredients and your dashi is ready!

All the dried ingredients that are used to make dashi are rich in naturally occurring glutamates and provide intense flavor to the stock.
dashi
Powdered dashi.
Nowadays you can easily find granulated or liquid instant dashi in any supermarket or convenience store. The brands are endless!
Although practical, they don't have the depth or smoothness of the homemade one.
Now that you know everything about dashi, why not try to make your own?
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