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Japanese Basics: Kelp Stock and Dashi Stock

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Every week, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today, Hiroko Shimbo, author of Hiroko's American Kitchen and The Japanese Kitchen, shares two stocks that will make Japanese cooking a reality in all of our kitchens. Add umami to your soups and sauces with Kelp Stock and Dashi Stock, and be sure to pick up Hiroko's favorite Japanese ingredients in our shop!


The first step to cooking easy, accessible Japanese food in your kitchen is preparing the two basic stocks that form the foundation of many Japanese dishes: kombu dashi (kelp stock) and dashi (kelp stock infused with dried fish flakes).

With a few batches of these stocks in your refrigerator or freezer, your favorite miso soup or noodle broth is just five minutes away. Kelp stock and dashi stock are also ideal for preparing American dishes with a healthful and delicious Japanese touch; they make wonderful substitutes for meat, chicken and Western vegetable stock. 

The simplest stock is kelp stock, or kombu dashi. For this recipe, I use shredded ma-kombu kelp from Japan, which produces the most flavorful stock and is easiest to store.

I recommend preparing this broth at night; it takes two minutes, and the kelp soaking in water will create a beautiful stock while you are sleeping! 


Simple Kombu Dashi (Kelp Stock)

Makes 8 cups

8 cups cold water
1 ounce kelp (if using ma-kombu, reduce the weight to 3/4 ounces) 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Fill a large, clean bowl with 8 cups cold water. Add your kombu, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and store it in the refrigerator overnight, or for about 10 hours. If using sheets of kombu, wipe them with a moist, clean kitchen towel to remove any impurities, then cut them into small pieces.


Once the kombu has soaked, strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl or jar. I line the strainer with a moist paper towel so that none of the kelp particles get into the stock. Reserve the kelp for a second stock preparation. 

Your stock should be full-bodied, with a faintly sweet and salty taste. For the best flavor, use within three days, or freeze what you won't be using immediately.

You can make a second stock by placing the used kombu and 6 cups of water in a large pot and bringing it to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes, then strain through a paper towel-lined sieve. The second stock is somewhat weaker in flavor than the first stock, but it is perfect for making soup and braising fish, poultry, or meat.


Note: Kelp that has been used twice should never be thrown away. I like to make a simple condiment with mine: simply cook strips of kelp in a pot over medium-low heat with a little water, a little sugar, a little soy sauce, and a little rice vinegar until most of the liquid is absorbed. At the end of cooking, add some chili powder. Use to garnish salad greens, noodle bowls, or even bagels and cream cheese!


Now let's move on to the dashi preparation. Dashi is a must-have stock in the Japanese kitchen. It is the base of everyone's favorite miso soup, udon and soba noodle broth, ramen broth, and ponzu sauce.

To prepare dashi stock, you simply bring kelp stock to a gentle simmer and add dried fish flakes. People often call these flakes "bonito" fish flakes, but the type of fish used is actually skipjack tuna. When you purchase dried fish flakes, look for flakes that are glossy and light in color. 


Flavorful, Almighty Dashi

Makes 7 1/2 cups

8 cups prepared kelp stock
4 cups (2 ounces) katsuobushi (dried skipjack tuna fish flakes)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Place the prepared kelp stock in a large pot over medium heat and heat up to 175° F. Add the fish flakes all at once, gently pushing the flakes down into the stock with a spatula. Wait for the stock to come to a gentle simmer, and then quickly turn off the heat. Leave the fish flakes in the stock for about 5 minutes.

Strain the stock through a strainer lined with a moist paper towel, ensuring that none of the fish flakes pass into your stock. Dashishould be very clean and clear; it will be much more flavorful than kelp stock. For best results, use it within three days, or store it in the freezer for later use.

Looking for the best Japanese ingredients? Find Hiroko's pantry essentials in our shop! And for more ways to use dashi and kombu dashi, turn to Hiroko's latest book.

Photos by James Ransom 

Tags: small batch, stock, Hiroko Shimbo, japanese, japanese food, dashi, kombu, kelp, soup, how-to & diy

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