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How We Make Dashi to Cook Dozens of Japanese Dishes at Home

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Dashi, a broth made by boiling kombu kelp and bonito flakes, is the backbone of many Japanese dishes. It is used to make soup including the iconic miso soup.

How We Make Dashi to Cook Dozens of Japanese Dishes at Home

But dashi isn’t just for soup. It is the base for the umami-flavored tempura dipping sauce, it is added to the Japanese savory custard called chawanmusi that is so addictive, it is used as a braising liquid for vegetables…

In short, if you know how to make dashi, you can easily cook so many Japanese dishes with truly authentic flavors. Is it hard to make dashi? Nope. It’s a very simple procedure. And you only need two ingredients.

Here’s how to make dashi at home.

Kombu kelp and bonito flakes for making dashi at home
Kombu kelp and bonito flakes

First, you need to have kombu kelp and bonito flakes.

Kombu is an edible seaweed sold dried. Bonito flakes are made from salted and dried fish, the most common being skipjack tuna.

Both are available in Asian groceries.

Boiling kombu kelp and bonito flakes to make dashi

Just put the kelp in a pot of water and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and allow to steep until cool.

Strain the dashi, pressing down the kombu and bonito flakes into the strainer, and it’s ready to use.

Here’s a printable version.

Straining the dashi
Print Recipe

Dashi Recipe

Prep Time1 min
Cook Time5 mins
Steeping time30 mins
Total Time6 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 3 cups
Author: Connie Veneracion

Ingredients

  • 6 to 8 2-inch squares kombu kelp
  • 1 packet bonito flakes (about 1/4 cup)

Instructions

  • Measure three cups water and pour into a pot.
  • Add the kombu and bonito flakes to the water and bring to the boil.
  • Turn off the heat and cover the pot.
  • Leave the dashi to steep until cool.
  • Strain the dashi and use.

Easy, right? But if don’t want to bother with making dashi, there’s an alternative.

Dashi granules as a substitute for homemade dashi

Dashi is sold in granule or powdered form. Just cut the packet open, dump the contents into a pot of hot water and stir.

Which tastes better: homemade dashi or instant dashi? I like homemade. That’s not saying that instant dashi tastes bad. Oh, no. We keep it in stock at home too for those times when we’re all in a hurry to make a pot of miso soup.

Know, however, that instant dashi contains additional ingredients like sugar, yeast extract and fermented wheat protein seasoning. The additional ingredients vary from brand to brand. If those additions make a difference to you, in terms of health or flavor, or both, then making dashi by boiling kelp and bonito flakes is the better option.