When you don’t have any chicken stock in your kitchen, dashi stock is a great alternative to have in hand. Dashi stock imparts a subtle, clean and less complex flavor and allows the essence of other ingredients in a dish to come through. This Japanese basic stock is made from konbu or kombu (dried seaweed) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and sometimes dried sardines or dried shiitake mushrooms.
The stock from the first soaking is called the ichiban dashi which has the finest flavor and is used to make miso soup. The second stock is called niban dashi which is made by simmering the same ingredients from the ichiban dashi for about 15 minutes to extract a light-flavored dashi. This stock is used in stews and other dishes with more ingredients or stronger flavors. I always end up making only the ichiban dashi as I use the kombu for cooking beans but it is wise to reuse the bonito flakes to make another pot of stock as Japanese ingredients are not cheap.
While chicken and other stocks require hours of simmering, dashi stock is much to simpler to make. But the secret to the pure umami flavor of dashi stock is the long-intensive process required to produce the kombu and the dried bonito flakes. Two years are needed to cultivate the kombu before being carefully sun-dried and six months are required to make the dried flakes from the fresh bonito.
This stock is also convenient for home cooks as kombu and bonito flakes can be stored in your pantry. So, when the need for a soup stock arises, the only other ingredient you need to have is water. Although dashi stock can be stored in the refrigerator (1 week) or in the freezer (about 1 month), I always make dashi stock fresh all the time and use it in less than 1 week.
- 4 cups cold water
- 1 large piece of kombu seaweed (about 3x6 inches)
- 1 cup packed bonito flakes
Wipe the kombu with damp kitchen paper. In a large pot, combine the water and seaweed and let it soak for 20 minutes (for some, they allow it to sit for an hour). Then, heat the water and seaweed over medium heat. Just before the water boils, remove the konbu with a slotted spoon. Then, add the bonito flakes and turn off the heat.Let the bontio flakes steep in the kombu-infused water for 5 minutes and allow it to sink to the bottom of the pot.
Strain the stock through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into a clean pot or container. If you're not using the stock right away, cool the stock by placing the pot onto an iced bath. When cooled, store (covered) in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze it for longer storage.
Bonito flakes differ in sizes. When you're using the large and thick flakes, use about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of bonito.
To make the second stock, pour another 4 cups of water into a pot and return the seaweed and bonito flakes used for making the first stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add another 1/2 to 1 cup of bonito flakes and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and wait for 5 minutes. Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth and use as required.