Japanese Home Cooking

Basic Japanese Dashi (Soup Stock)

 

Dashi is Japanese stock, and it's a fundamental ingredient in many Japanese dishes.  

The most common dashi is called Awase Dashi, meaning combination stock, and it's made with kombu (kelp), bonito flakes (dried and smoked skipjack tuna that is shaved into thin flakes), dried sardine (iriko or niboshi), shiitake mushroom, or a combination of all or two of them.  Dashi provides great umami from all these ingredients and you don’t need to season the food much if you have good dashi. 

 

The following recipe is a basic dashi recipe called Ichiban Dashi, which means 'First' dashi or stock.

 

You'll Need:

 

  • 4 cups of water

  • 3-inch square of kombu (kelp)

  • 3/4 cup katsuobushi (bonito flakes)

 

 

Let's go:

 

  1. Make a few slits on the kombu with a knife or scissors.

  2. Put the kombu and water in a saucepan. The kombu's flavour comes out naturally from soaking, so If you have time, soak from 3 hours to overnight. 

  3. Slowly bring to a boil over medium low heat, skimming the surface occasionally. 

  4. Just before the water boils and you start seeing bubbles around the edge of the pan, remove the kombu. If you leave the kombu in, the dashi will become slimy and bitter. You can save it for Niban Dashi (see below).

  5. Turn off the heat or add 1/4 cup of water to let the dashi cool down a bit.

  6. Add the bonito flakes and bring it to a boil again.

  7. Once the dashi boils, reduce the heat, simmer for 30 seconds, and turn off the heat.

  8. Strain dashi through a colander. Use immediately or store sealed in the fridge for a few days.

 

Niban Dashi

 

Niban dashi means second dashi, and it's light dashi you make using the leftover kombu and bonito flakes from the Ichiban Dashi recipe above. Traditionally Ichiban Dashi is a delicate stock meant for clear soups like miso, whereas Niban Dashi is used as an all-purpose stock. It's not as delicate but you can use it to cook more dishes at a higher heat.

 

  1. In a pot, put 4 cups of water with leftover kombu and bonito from Ichiban Dashi and bring to a boil over high heat.

  2. Once it boils lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes, skimming off any kombu bits that float to the top.

  3. Add an additional 5 grams of bonito flakes and turn off the heat. 

  4. Let the bonito flakes sink to the bottom and strain the dashi through the colander.

 

 

What is Miso?

 

One of the best known Japanese traditional seasonings, miso is soybean paste fermented with salt and koji (rice malt or barley malt). It is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. It is available in different varieties, each with its own unique flavor and aroma. Not only is miso commonly used to make miso soup, but it's also widely used in both traditional and modern cooking around the world.

It takes a lot of time to make your own miso from scratch, and traditionally people ferment it for at least one year. The supermarket miso is typically fermented for about 2 months, and will contain more filler ingredients because of how it's processed and distributed. Luckily our teacher Sachiko brought her own homemade miso for us to taste -- what a difference! She makes a range of miso pastes, incuding premium miso, garlic miso, chickpea miso and more. To get your hands on some homemade miso, contact her company at: misoya.nagomi@gmail.com

 

 

Miso Soup

 

Preparing miso soup is a very simple process! You may have tried miso soup in Japanese restaurants served with tofu, wakame seaweed and green onion as the main ingredients. However at home you can also try new vegetable combinations, such as bok choi, shitake mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, sliced carrots, broccoli and more!

 

  1. Make dashi (see above recipe). If you don't have time to make dashi, you can buy steepable bags of dashi or pre-mixed dashi packets that you add water to.

  2. Poach your ingredients in boiling dashi until they are just cooked, making sure not to overcook them. Think about your ingredients -- if you're using roots or potatoes, add those first, then add faster-cooking ingredients like leafy greens later.

  3. When your soup ingredients are ready, turn off the heat.

  4. Take some hot dashi and pour into a bowl. Add miso paste into the bowl and mix it with the hot water to dissolve fully. Return this liquid mixture back into the pot -- do not cook miso paste on direct heat for your miso soup!

  5. Taste to see if you want to add more miso. Adjust seasonings. 

  6. Add Tofu and wakame at the very end, after miso paste is added.

 

Note on Ratios: 

  • For a serving for 4 people, try 3 cups of dashi, a handful of ingredients and 3-4 tbsp of miso

  • Example: 3 cups of dashi, 2 baby bok choi, 1 deep-fried tofu, 3-4 tbsp miso

  • Make sure to taste and adjust to what you prefer

  • Keep in mind that miso soup isn't clam chowder -- you don't want to stuff the bowl with ingredients. A good proportion would be a third of the bowl is ingredients, and the rest broth. 

 

 

Onigiri (Rice Balls)

 

O-nigiri is a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or oval shapes and often wrapped in nori (seaweed). Traditionally, an onigiri is filled with pickled ume (umeboshi plum), salted salmon, katsuobushi (bonito flakes), kombu, tarako (salted cod roe), or any other salty or sour ingredient as a natural preservative.

 

Because of the popularity of onigiri in Japan, most convenience stores stock their onigiri with various fillings and flavors. There are even specialized shops which only sell onigiri to take out. Many Japanese people make these rice balls as a convenient snack-to-go during the day. There are also now 'onigirazu', which is more of a sandwich shape where the filling is sandwiched with layers of rice and fully wrapped in seaweed -- it makes for a less sticky snack.

 

You'll Need:

 

  • 4 cups uncooked short-grain white rice 

  • 4 cups of water

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • filling (see below)

  • 2 sheets nori (dry seaweed), cut into 1/2 inch strips

 

Note: You can play around with grains and do a mix of brown & white, however make sure to wash and then pre-soak brown rice between 12-24 hours. You can also add a mix of quinoa, millet, Black Thai sweet rice or barley

 

  1. Wash the rice in a mesh strainer until the water runs clear.

  2. Combine washed rice and 4 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; cover. Simmer rice until the water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Let rice rest, for 15 minutes to allow the rice to continue to steam and become tender. 

  3. Combine 1 cup water with the salt in a small bowl. Use this water to dampen hands before handling the rice. Divide the cooked rice into 8 equal portions. Use one portion of rice for each onigiri.

  4. Divide one portion of rice in two. Create a dimple in the rice and fill with a teaspoon of bonito flakes wet with soy sauce. Cover with the remaining portion of rice and press lightly to enclose filling inside rice ball. Gently press the rice to shape into a triangle. Wrap shaped onigiri with a strip of nori.

 

Onigiri Filling Combinations:

 

  • Salmon Flake (salmon, mirin, salt, sugar)

  • Salted Pickled Apricot or Ume Plum (chopped salted apricot, plum vinegar, salt, red shiso leaf, some type of acid)

  • Bonito Flake with soy sauce

  • Cooked Kelp & Bonito Flake (kelp, bonito, soy sauce, sugar, sesame seed)

  • Grilled Miso (miso, honey and cook it on grill or frying pan)

 

Non-Traditional Onigirazu Combos:

  • Tuna mayonnaise with lettuce (drained canned tuna, mayo, lettuce)

  • Vegetable Miso (miso, burdock, shiso leaf, carrot, beet, green onion, sesame seed, soy sauce, agave syrup, sake)

  • Hawaiian Style (pan-fried spam, scrambled egg, green beans)

 

 

Recipes for leftover rice:

 

 

Where to Buy Ingredients:

  • Fujiya Supermarket (Clark Dr & Veneables)

  • T & T Supermarket

  • Kim's Mart (Broadway & Carolina)