I’ve seriously been infected by wanderlust.
For me there’s nothing sweeter than the exhaustion and excitement of air travel. Anyone else get freaked out by border agents every time? Unfortunately, my next trip isn’t until February. To keep sane, and the wanderlust at bay I decided to try my hand at some international recipes.
The first place I want to explore is Japan!
The thing I love most about Japanese cuisine is the delicate balance between simple and complex. Before we get to any of the recipes let’s talk about one of the most important ingredient in Japanese cuisine:
Dashi is a stock used as base for a ton of recipes. It’s really what gives food from Japan it’s distinct flavor.
This is the multi-purpose everyday Dashi most people use for soups and adding umami to dishes. It gets it’s flavor from a combination of Kombu (dried kelp) and Katsuobushi (Bonito Flakes).
This dashi I think has a more complex and balanced flavor. I found some shredded Kombu on the market at Food52 which made the process much easier. The key to making good stock is to slowly draw out the flavor of the kelp. I let it soak in cold water overnight before making the Dashi but you can get away with soaking a few hours.
Making that Dashi is super simple. You simply bring the 20 grams Kombu with four cups cold water to a gentle simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes. After the taking the kombu out you add the Bonito flakes and bring to a boil. After straining through a fine mesh sieve, you’re ready to make Miso, or Tofu, Curry or anything else that calls for Dashi.
If I’m making a dish with more subtle flavors, for vegetarian/vegans, or one that features seafood (I’ll be making a Cockle Miso Soup soon) I make a stock out of Kombu alone. You can either use the soaking liquid (after a day in the fridge) or you can soak and gently simmer the Kombu and cold water for about 20 mins being careful not to boil the kombu.
Iriko or Niboshi Dashi
This dashi is made from dried baby anchovies or sardines. You basically remove the head and innards of the dried fish soak overnight and then boil. Fun fact: when I make a Korean food I use a mix of kombu and anchovies (and sometimes dried shiitake). You could also use it to add depth of flavor to miso soup (which I’ll be making next!)
This is actually just the liquid leftover from rehydrating dried Shiitake mushrooms. I hope you haven’t been throwing it away! This dashi is a bit too strong to use on its own but combined with the other stocks it adds an unique and earthy flavor to any dish.
Next time I’ll use my dashi to make three very different but equally delicious Miso Soups. Do you know any awesome uses for Dashi? I’d love to hear them.