Dashi is one ingredient you absolutely can’t be without. Made from sea kelp, dried fish or shitake mashroom, dashi is the foundation for a startling number of Japanese dishes. Used as a stock, a soup base and a simmering liquid, dashi gives depth and umami to any dish. And so, as you’ll see, almost every recipe in this blog calls for it at one point or another.
As a rule, I will try avoid sending you around to Asian shops to buy strange things. But sometimes, it can’t be helped. You need Dashi. You just do.
Look around online, and you’ll find a lot of recipes telling how to make dashi at home. In Japan as well, the more authentic the cookbook is, the more it will insist that you prepare your dashi stock from scratch.
Personally, though, I never make dashi from scratch. Making dashi from scratch is just too big a project, and doing it all the time is not really realistic for the average Japanese mom. Think about it, you use dashi in almost every single Japanese dish: who can make that much dashi? The process would take far too much time to make, and the result would take up a huge amount of fridge space to store.
Frankly, unless you’re a chef, a kitchen maniac or generally have way too much free time on your hands, I can’t really recommend you go to all the trouble to make this lightly seasoned soup stock from scratch.
No need to feel bad, though: just about everyone in Japan buys dashi ready-made in little dissecated powder packets from the supermarket. I’m no exception. That’s why, in my blog, whenever I write “dashi” I mean powdered dashi, not the liquid stock. For a few recipes that requires stronger dashi taste I add dry shitake mashrooms or konbu to the dashi powder in the cooking water.
I just want to reassure you. There is no shame at all in using ready-made dashi. In Japan, that’s what everybody’s mom does. And this is a blog about real Japanese home cooking, so that’s how we’ll do it here as well.