Kitchen Confidence

How to Make Dashi

By • February 19, 2014 • 41 Comments

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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! 

Jump to Comments (41)

Tags: kitchen confidence, dashi, japanese cooking, how to make dashi

Comments (41)

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4 months ago Jacob

So could I make ramen with this dashi?

Jaqueline_c_013

4 months ago LDGourmet

Jacob, Dashi is very different from Ramen broths. And, there are many types of ramen broth. Most all have hearty stocks based on long simmered bones of one sort or another. Nothing prevents you from having ramen noodles in dashi broth but it's not the traditional pairing.

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7 months ago Kathleen

What do you do with the boiled bonito? Can you keep it in the broth?
Thank you

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7 months ago Joy Belamarich

I discard it after I've strained the broth! I've never heard of anyone keeping it in -- it might be too strong, and I imagine it would continue to flavor the broth, making it saltier and saltier the longer it sits.

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7 months ago Ed

No, after 3-5 mins. you strain it out through a fine strainer or coffee filter

Jaqueline_c_013

7 months ago LDGourmet

Don't throw it away! You can make homemade furikake (the sprinkles for topping rice) You can stuff onigiri with it. You can, in fact, not strain it out at all as we sometimes do in home cooking.

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7 months ago Kathleen

Thank you all for educating me. I have some from my last Asian market trip yet had not gotten around to try it. All excellent suggestions. LDGourmet: Thank you!!

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7 months ago LDGourmet

My pleasure! I love sharing good food, tips and recipes. You've given me a good idea for a quick instructographic to add to my site. Furikake!

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7 months ago Kathleen

LDG... where is your site? I used to live close to Uwajimaya market but not anymore. Love cooking anything Asian and healthy. I've been trying to locate lotus roots but it's unheard of in typical US markets.
Thanks again!

Jaqueline_c_013

7 months ago LDGourmet

http://food52.com/users... You can find me everywhere Pinterest, FB, Twitter, Instagram...

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7 months ago Kathleen

I've just found you on Instagram and have been enjoying your lovely gallery! My pintetst is, Kat Haynes

Jaqueline_c_013

7 months ago LDGourmet

Excellent - glad to be connected!

Stringio

7 months ago Mims Bot

With the spent kombu as well, slice very thinly, add a bit of dashi, a few splashes of soy sauce and a tablespoon of sugar. Simmer gently until syrup is formed and kombu slivers are candied. So yummy!

Jaqueline_c_013

7 months ago LDGourmet

Btw the used kombu is saved and chopped into pickles, salads. It can also be reused to make niban dashi with the addition of small dried fish or an additional bunch of katsuobushi - secondary dashi. Reusing both original katsuobushi and original kombu, adds flavor, esp umami to many stewed or braised dishes.

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7 months ago Joy Belamarich

Thanks so much for pointing this out!

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7 months ago benj

thanks ed. i am here in the philippines, so i dont know if that brand is available here. thanks again

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7 months ago benj

thanks. it is easy to make dashi. i will just have to find me a japanese store to buy bonito flakes.

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7 months ago Ed

I get mine from a local food coop. Not inexpensive but the quality is high, I use the Eden brand which I believe is organic. I think you can get it through Vitacost but I;m not sure.

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7 months ago Ed

I would say a one inch by 3 in. piece of Kombu and an 1/8 rounded cup of bonito flakes.

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7 months ago Joy Belamarich

I second that! Thanks, Ed!

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7 months ago maggie

How much kombu and bonita to one cup of water? I have used the instant but can't find any in my area that isn't loaded with MSG. Thanks.

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7 months ago Billy Bennett

4.5g of Kombu
2Tbsp of Bonito Flakes

I use 18g for 4 cups.

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7 months ago MRubenzahl

Make it a quart or two at a time -- keeps well in the refrigerator. The amounts are not very critical.
One 4x4-inch piece of kombu and one cup of bonito flakes per quart of water.
I use this recipe:
http://www.foodnetwork...

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7 months ago MRubenzahl

Oh -- I see food52 has a recipe.
http://food52.com/blog...

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7 months ago maggie

Thanks to all of you for your help and kind words. I lived in Okinawa, Japan for three years and feel in love with the food. I make my own sauces and dips for gyoza and other dumplings. I love to cook and since I could not find the instant product in my current area, I turned to Food 52. Knew that it would pay off. m

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7 months ago MsMora

Frequently I will make soups with half dashi and half chicken stock. The bonito flakes add a wonderful background flavor that few can figure out. I'll also melt sake lees (kazu) into my soups and stocks. That's another flavor component that has people guessing.

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7 months ago MRubenzahl

Once you have dashi, you just need miso (refrigerator section of any well-equipped Asian market) to make miso soup. Here is Alton Brown's:

http://www.foodnetwork...

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7 months ago savorthis

We use dashi not just in soups but as a flavor boost to sauces, braises, you name it. And while I much prefer to made my own, I always have the instant dashi on hand. Just a few grains of it adds a whole new layer of flavor.

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7 months ago Brette Warshaw

I'm such a fan of your dashi-braised kabocha! :)

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7 months ago savorthis

Thanks!

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7 months ago thirschfeld

I like to take a fat finger of ginger, slice it length wise and add it with the kelp and let it steep all the way through with the bonito.

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7 months ago Jim

Ishikari Nabe! As "honored guest" once in a Hokkaido restaurant, I was served the specialty soup. My hosts were adamant that I "could never make this soup at home" and I couldn't stop laughing -- it was "My sister's potato/leek soup with dashi stock and big chunks of salmon."

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7 months ago Ed

For about 2 1/2 cups of dashi, I add 2 tbl. of miso paste, about 3 thinly sliced mushrooms and minced scallion, low cal and very tasty.

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7 months ago Ed

Sorry, touch of soy sauce too.

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7 months ago Cathy Gordon

I make a dish with a pork cutlet fried and serve it over rice with a dashi soup base with mirin, sake, soy sauce and egg. Japanese comfort food in a bowl.

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7 months ago Joy Belamarich

I want that right now!

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7 months ago Billy Bennett

Would this be the soup that Japanese restaurants give you with the sliced mushrooms and fried onions?

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7 months ago Joy Belamarich

Hmmm...I've never had it that way, but maybe?

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7 months ago MRubenzahl

Billy -- probably. It usually has diced tofu and green onions but often has other little surprises. I've had it with a bit of fried onion.

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7 months ago Catherine Lamb

Catherine is the Community Manager at Food52.

You have inspired me! I want to make ramen. Can I cheat and use not homemade noodles?

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7 months ago Joy Belamarich

YES. (As long as you slurp).