Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Learn how to make your own dashi stock -- with just three ingredients (psst! One of them is water).
If you've ever sat down at a Japanese restaurant, ordered a sushi roll or two and maybe some sake, then chances are you've been presented with a brimming bowl of miso soup 2 seconds later. Within that miso soup, which is usually exactly what you need while you wait for your meal, is dashi.
Always made with the same three ingredients -- kombu, bonito flakes, and water -- dashi is the base of many Japanese soups and dishes, and is essential to Japanese cooking. There are a thousand variations on how to make it -- and depending on what recipe you look at, you'll be instructed to do things that another recipe might say to avoid. Here, we've broken down dashi to its simplest form -- including some of the tips and suggestions we find most helpful.
Start with your first ingredient: dried kelp, also known as kombu. Most recipes say you should wipe it down before using it; we find that a quick swipe on a clean kitchen towel does the trick.
Drop your kombu into a pot filled with water. Let it steep -- some recipes suggest steeping the kelp overnight, others say that letting your kombu water simmer for fifteen to thirty minutes does the trick. This is up to you: The point is to draw the kombu's flavor out and thoroughly infuse the water.
Place your pot of kombu water on to simmer, just enough so that small bubbles form along the edge of the pot. You don't want your water to reach a rolling boil. At this point, remove your kombu from the water.
Add your bonito flakes. Let the water return to a simmer for a minute or so, then turn off the heat and leave the bonito flakes to steep for about 5 minutes.
Time to drain! You can use a strainer and a cheese cloth, if you're concerned about any bonito flakes passing through. We find that a very fine strainer works well. The liquid should be a pretty, pale yellow color, similar to chicken stock, and should smell slightly sweet, and a little briny.
Now that your dashi is ready, you can use it immediately, or let it cool and refrigerate for later use. We recommend using dashi within the first four days of refrigeration -- but it also freezes quite well.
What do you use your dashi stock for? Ramen? Soba? Udon? Tell us in the comments!