Have you ever heard about Dashi? Since I have never been to Japan before, it took me until now to get to know this deliciously, umami-rich staple of the Japanese cuisine. ... And hey - I immediately fell in love the moment I tried it. Not only is the stock super low in calories and can be made 100% vegan, its "highlight" or "main reason for fame" is the ability to enhance the flavor of everything you eat with the stock. The umami-rich Dashi stock can literally make every veggie "shine". Curious to learn more. Then, read on. The agenda is as following:
1. What is Dashi & how does Dashi taste?
2. What you need to make your own Dashi Stock at home
3. Can I purchase Dashi from the supermarket?
3. Classic Vegan Dashi Stock Recipe
4. How to use Dashi in the Kitchen
Dashi is a famous Japanese stock or "simple broth" traditionally made from Katsuobushi (preserved and fermented skipjack, tuna or bonito fish) and kombu (edible kelp). Today, the term Dashi refers to a group of Japanese stocks made from steeping umami-rich ingredients in hot or cold water.
Dashi is basically the Japanese equivalent to our "veggie broth" we use on a daily basis to season our soups, sauces and other veggie dishes. The only difference, aside from the fact that it is traditionally made with umami-rich ingredients (fish and seaweed), is the flavor. While, our classic stocks made from chicken (chicken stock), beef (beef stock) or vegetables (vegetable stock) typically have a pretty intense flavor and are mostly used as "direct seasoning", Dashi has a considerably mild, "oceani" and umami-rich flavor with great depth that serves as a "flavor enhancer of other ingredients". In other words, Dashi intensifies the taste and the aroma of any ingredient it is combined with. In Japan, Dashi is often mixed with miso-paste and then used as a base for nearly everything - be it Ramen, Miso soups or any other kind of veggie dish.
By the way, another reason why you should definitely start using Dashi for your next veggie soup, rice or Ramen, Dashi is super healthy, beyond simple to prep and can be ready to use in the homemade version in less than an hour. If you have ever made beef or chicken broth from scratch you will know that there is no way to beat the super quick preparation time of a one hour Dashi.
Well.. if we recall the main Dashi ingredients - fish and kombu, we immediately see, Dashi is far from being a vegan broth in its "traditional version". However, legend has it that Japanese buddhist, who faced the same problems all modern vegans face when it comes to cooking deliciously flavorful meals, got very creative and found an amazing alternative to fermented skipjack, tuna, bonito and co. Their secret - Shiitake mushrooms which couldn't replace the fish in any better way and add an amazing umami-rich hint to the Dashi mix.
To make your own "classic Dashi" you need less than 5 ingredients - in the classic (non-vegan) as well as the vegan version. The base recipes include:
Classic Vegan Dashi:
The ingredient lists mentioned above are only two examples of a classic vegan and non-vegan Dashi version. Dashi recipes are endless. There are Dashi recipes that are only made of Kombu Seaweed or Bonito Flakes and others with longer ingredient lists including green tea and other types of fish and seaweed.
Find the instructions on how to prep vegan Dashi in the following paragraphs.
As I have never purchased Dashi from the supermarket, I honestly have no clue what to pay attention to if you choose to purchase Dashi. Of course, I will always recommend you the DIY Dashi version - as it is super easy to prep if you have the basic ingredients (Dried Shiitake, Kombu & Nori) at hand.
If however you choose to purchase Dashi from the store, follow the classic clean shopping rules. Try to go with the brand that has the shortest nutrient label, don't buy any product with completely unfamiliar and unpronounceable ingredients and don't buy foods with an expiration date of plus 1 year. (As a rule of thumb: The longer the shelf-life, the higher the food is processed and the less nutritious it is.)
Store-bought Dashi is available as powder or as a paste - similar to the veggie broth we know from the supermarket.
Classic Vegan Dashi: As mentioned above, you need 2 liters of filtered water, approx. 25g Kombu Seaweed, 1 Nori Seaweed sheet and roughly 5 dried shiitake mushrooms. Fresh shiitake mushrooms work as well from my personal experience. However, they are low in "guanylate" - a natural sodium salt responsible for the creation of the well-known umami flavor of Asian dishes (alongside with the glutamine present in sea weed).
Dashi Recipe Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and add 2 liters of hot water (approx. 60°C or less). Let the mix sit for approx. 1h with a closed lid (or longer). If you want, you can even pre-soak your Kombu overnight in room temperature water. Then, remove the Kombu (as it will get bitter if heated) and bring the remaining ingredients to "almost a boil" - approx. 80°C. "Cook" at 80°C for a couple of minutes.
Important: Pay close attention to the Dashi temperature. A Dashi should never get too hot. Ththat you stop the cooking process right before you Dashi broth starts boiling. Dashi stock should never boil while the seaweed is still "swimming" in the water. Then, remove the Dashi from the heat and strain using a fine mesh sieve.
You can store your ready-made Dashi for 2-3 days in the fridge or - if you know you won't be able to finish it within a few days - you can pop it into the freezer as shown in the image below. Ice cube trays are a wonderful tip to preserve leftover salsas, drinks and herbal infusions. The only thing here, make sure not to forget about them in your freezer. The Dashi will also loose flavor the longer it sits in your freezer.
Dashi is basically your Asian alternative to a veggie broth - with the only difference that it is "pure umami flavor" instead of salty seasoning. I love to combine Dashi with miso and use this combo as my "starter" for any Asian-Style veggie soup, Ramen noodles, rice seasoning (including Sushi) and sauces. Sometimes I also add a bit of Soy Sauce (or Tamari) which is packed with flavor and adds the "sometimes more than needed" depth of flavor to my vegetable dishes.
Besides, many Asian recipes also call for the combination of Dashi with Green tea, especially when poured over rice. However, I have not the combo yet.
I will try to add some of of my favorite Dashi recipes to the blog as soon as possible.
I hope you enjoyed this little intro into Japan's most essential kitchen staple - Dashi. Like always, I would love to see your delicious, seasonal creations and repost them on my social media channels. Thus, make sure to tag me on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook. Besides, if you have any feedback for me, questions with regards to this post, my recipe or if you just want to say "hey", comment below or send me a message through my contact form.
Love & Plants, Karo