My favourite homemade awase dashi is made using dried kelp, bonito flakes and dried sardines. It's packed with umami and a little stronger than your average dashi, it's perfect for taking soups, noodle broths and hotpot dishes to another level!
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Dashi is a type of Japanese soup stock. It can be made from a number of different ingredients, much like how stock used in Western cooking can be from chicken, beef, vegetables, fish etc.
Dashi is one of the fundamentals in Japanese cooking. It adds umami and depth to a recipe and it gives each dish that distinct and authentic Japanese flavour. It is often used in noodle dishes and soups, but can also be used in sauces or dressings.
If you find yourself wondering where that unique Japanese-y taste is coming from in a dish, it's probably coming from dashi.
The most common ingredients used to make dashi are:
- Kombu (dried kelp)
- Katsuobushi (bonito fish flakes made from skipjack tuna)
- Dried Shiitake Mushroom
- Niboshi (usually dried sardines or anchovies)
You can make a simple dashi using one ingredient, but it's a lot more common to make "awase dashi". Awase (合わせ) means to mix or combine, so essentially it's a type of dashi that contains two or more ingredients. There are many types of awase dashi.
My favourite awase dashi
The most common type of awase dashi is made using dried kelp and bonito flakes, you can check out my simple awase dashi recipe here. You can also make a vegetarian/vegan awase dashi using only plant base (kombu and shiitake mushrooms). Check out my vegan dashi recipe too!
However, my favourite dashi uses the following three ingredients:
Let's look at each ingredient in detail.
Kombu (昆布) is a dried edible kelp that you might have seen in miso soup.
When we use it to make dashi, we soak it in cold water first. It needs to be rehydrated in order to extract the flavour. Once it's soft, it's usually simmered for 5-6 minutes. Some people leave kombu to soak overnight for maxium flavour.
It's recommended not to boil kombu as it can extract some bitterness. I usually remove the kombu before boiling my broth.
Katsuobushi (かつおぶし) is the Japanese name for "bonito flakes".
Bonito flakes are made from skipjack tuna that has been dried, fermented and smoked. It is then shaved into very thin flakes. The flavour is quite strong and smoky and it makes a very delicious dashi.
Extra thin katsuobushi is often used as a topping on dishes such as Okonomiyaki or Takoyaki. It's a useful and tasty ingredient to have in your cupboard if you're interested in Japanese cooking. The katsuobushi used for dashi is a little thicker.
When using katsuobushi to make dashi, I only add it for a short time while heating the liquid (making sure not to boil). This method gently extracts the flavour without making the broth too "fishy".
Because the flakes are so delicate, there are often tiny bits leftover in the stock. To remove shavings and tiny bits, line a colander or sieve with kitchen paper or a coffee filter and pour the dashi through. This will filter out the bits and leave you with a clear broth.
Niboshi (煮干し) also known as iriko (炒り子) are a type of small dried sardine. Even if you don't like sardines themselves, this tiny dried variety create delicious depth of flavour and make a really delicious dashi!
To use them, you simply take the heads off and soak them for thirty minutes to an hour. You can also split them lengthways to extract more flavour. (Some people also scrape out the insides to prevent any bitterness, but I only use a small amount so I usually skip this step.)
Once soaked, heat the water (not boiling) for about 5 minutes and then remove them from the broth.
When making my favourite awase dashi, I soak the niboshi together with the kombu.
Reusing dashi ingredients
If it's hard to find dashi ingredients in your country, you'll be pleased to know that it's possible to reuse them to make a second batch of dashi! Simply follow these steps:
- Take your used dashi ingredients and place them in a pot.
- Add 1 litre of water and 7g of unused katsuobushi.
- Turn the heat on medium-high and bring to a boil.
- Once it's boiling, turn the heat down to medium and cook until the liquid is reduced by 20%.
- Remove from the heat and strain the dashi with a sieve and kitchen paper like before.
- Allow to cool until cool to the touch, then pick up the kitchen paper and squeeze the ingredients to release any excess dashi.
- Use straight away or store in the refrigerator and use within 3-4 days. (Be aware that the flavour deteriorates every day that you keep it so try to use it sooner rather than later!)
Alternatively, you can use leftover used kombu to make onigiri rice balls! Check out my kombu onigiri recipe!
How to use awase dashi
Awase dashi can be used in so many different dishes, but I especially recommend using this homemade dashi for soupy recipes that rely on a stronger tasting, good quality dashi to help take the dish to another level. Here are a few examples:
- Authentic homemade miso soup
- Simple udon soup (kake udon)
- Oden (Japanese winter stew)
- Nikujaga (Japanese meat and potato stew)