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How To Japanify: Miso Soup

One of the most basic things about Japanese cooking that baffled me before living in Japan was how to make dashi. I knew it was easy and that the ingredients were readily available, but I wanted to make it right. All from scratch. Here is the definitive guide to making dashi.

The easiest way to prepare dashi is to "cheat" and use its Bouillon cube equivalent - Hondashi. But be aware that this stuff packs some serious MSG punch and if you are not into that kind of thing, ask your grocer for a non-MSG equivalent. Or, to thwart any MSG contamination, make your dashi from scratch. Best part about this is that you can prepare a huge vat of dashi during the weekend to use throughout the week.

HOW TO:


1. Have one strip of kombu ready.

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

2. Fill a big pot with water (about 5-6 quarts).

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

3. Put the kombu strip into the pot.

4. Leave UNCOVERED for 20 minutes. I also add some of these little shrimp I get from Chinatown just to add another element of umami. Dried shitake or Asian mushrooms of any sort are also a welcome addition.

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

5. Shave bonito - about 2 tablespoons. I received a bonito shaver as a going-away gift in Japan. I bought my blocks of bonito at Tsukiji. Hida Tools sells bonito shavers, as do several online stores. Just google "bonito shaver" and you should be on your way to purchasing one. Of course, you can always buy shaved bonito (this will save time), but freshly shaved bonito is like freshly ground coffee beans - it makes a world of difference.

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

6. After the kombu has been sitting in the pot for 20 minutes, turn the heat on to high.

7. Once steam starts dancing on the surface of the water, dump in about 2 tablespoons of shaved bonito, OR two thick shavings of bonito.

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

8. When the dashi comes to a boil, turn off the heat. Let the contents cool a bit, then strain the liquid through a fine strainer or through cheesecloth so that none of the katsuobushi flakes end up in the final dashi.

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

How To Japanify: Miso Soup

9. Now you have a week's worth of dashi! Store the dashi in air-tight containers and refrigerate.

Come back next Thursday when I'll be making proper miso soup using this dashi.
Column: Japanify
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12 comments

  • Yoko, can I ask why you leave konbu in dashi?

    yamahomo on

  • i LOVE my bonito shaver, too! so glad you posted this. there’s nothing like the homemade stuff and it’s all so worth it. i also double strain to make second dashi (niban-dashi) for dashi-maki-tamago.

    june on

  • Yes, but I don’t really sense the bitter flavor. Maybe I am not sensitive enough.

    yoko on

  • We were told not to leave konbu in dashi, since it gives out some bitter flavor, no?

    Yamahomo on

  • Hey Yamahomo!
    I leave the konbu in the dashi so that I can use it later again for niban dashi.

    yoko on

  • Thanks for the info! I do have the granular dashi stock, I was just wondering about the nori.

    Craig on

  • No, nori would not be a good substitute for kombu. If you have a health food store or asian market near you I urge you to get the real thing. It’s quite accessible these days – also online.

    If you don’t have it, you can skip it, but it will compromise your dashi to a near-detrimental degree, so I would instead recommend that you just get a dashi powder substitute like Hondashi http://www.amazon.com/Ajinomoto-Dashi-Soup-Stock-5-28/dp/B0002YB40O

    But just to let you know Hondashi contains MSG and if you are not into MSG, your market should have a non-MSG equivalent. But the reason I mention Hondashi is because it is the Kleenex of dashi stock.

    yoko on

  • If one doesn’t have kombu, is nori a good replacement?

    Craig on

  • Can you tell me how long can we keep the homemade dashi? That amount is more than a week’s worth for me and it would be a shame to waste it!

    Genevieve on

  • Or Charmin of dashi stock?

    kayoko on

  • ::::Can you tell me how long can we keep the homemade dashi? That amount is more than a week’s worth for me and it would be a shame to waste it!::::

    Sheesh, I’ll warm it up and drink it before letting any dashi go to waste.

    I’ve also frozen it in ice cubes, like regular stock. It’s not quite as good as the fresh-made stuff, but it will do.

    Aquaria on

  • HI Genevieve! It will last you about 10 days.

    yoko on

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