Dashi Broth and Japanese Aid

The closest we came to Japan was several years ago when we had a lay-over in Tokyo while on our way to South Korea. As the plane approached the airport, I strained to see as much as I could out of the small window, knowing that view might be as much as I would ever see of Japan. The one image I remember best is the color green everywhere, before buildings and runways filled the window. In my mind’s eye, I saw temples, simple homes with paper screens and futons, tea houses. Now we watch the news from Japan with heavy hearts.

We spent five weeks in South Korea, traveling the length of the country, while visiting restored Buddhist temples, world-class botanical gardens, huge markets with an array of exotic foods and crafts, and always, always, eating. Russ and I told each other that we could easily live off of Korean food alone, with its reliance on simply prepared vegetables, a minimum of meat, some fish, burning chile sauce, and light soups.

My Asian cooking is not extensive, usually a generic stir-fry. When I lived in the U.S., where Asian ingredients are easier to find than they are in Mexico, I would sometimes make dashi (だし), a simple broth made of kombu seaweed and bonito fish flakes. This broth is the basis for Japanese miso and noodle soups. Western chefs use it to season vegetables and other dishes. I enjoy it on its own as a mug of hot, savory broth.

As a way of paying homage to the people of Japan, I am making dashi today and wishing the good people of Japan safety and renewal. I know they need more than our good wishes, so we also made a donation to the American Red Cross. If you wish to do the same, contact information follows this recipe.

Dashi

  • 4 cups (1 liter) water
  • 7″ (17.8 cm.) piece of kombu
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz./5 grams) bonito fish flakes
  1. Add kombu and water to a pot.
  2. Heat water over medium heat. Just before it reaches a boil, remove kombu.
  3. Bring water to a boil and add fish flakes.
  4. Turn off heat and allow fish flakes to seep for 2 minutes.
  5. Strain broth, discarding fish flakes. Refrigerate or freeze.

For a simple soup, simmer julienned carrots and cubes of tofu in dashi until heated through. Season with miso or tamari and top with cilantro and sliced green onion for garnish.

Notes:

  • For a tastier dashi, first soak kombu in four cups cold water for one hour, then continue with cooking instruction, using the soaking water.
  • Bonito fish flakes are made by steaming and drying bonito, a type of mackerel, until it is bone-dry, and then it into flakes. Kombu is a seaweed from the kelp family. Kelp dashi is the taste responsible for the identification of umami, a Japanese word which indicates the fifth taste of savory, in addition to the four tastes of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.
  • Making dashi from scratch, as easy as it is, has become uncommon in Japan, as instant dashi powder is now widely used.
  • If you wish to support Japan earthquake and tsunami relief efforts, donations can be made to the American Red Cross. Or text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10 USD. For those outside of the US who wish to donate here is a directory of international Red Cross centers.

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19 thoughts on “Dashi Broth and Japanese Aid

  1. yoko

    Hi Kathleen, I’m moving to Mexico city in July so, I was searching about Mexican food and found your site today. I am Japanese and I live in Japan. This post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for thinking about Japan and sharing such a lovely post. We are still on our way, but things are getting better and we are walking forward! Again, thank you very much for your kindness and your recipes :)

    1. Hi Yoko,
      You are very welcome. I am glad to hear that things are getting better. There can only be progress and improvement. I know the Japanese people are so strong, and are able to overcome any adversity. And I’m glad you found my site to help you understand the food and ingredients of Mexico in preparation for your move to Mexico City. Be sure to check out The Mija Chronicles, written by Leslie Téllez. Leslie lives in Mexico City and writes about the food scene there.

  2. I’m glad to see that we can all share awareness through our blogs. Japan needs all the help they can get right now. My sister (Veronica) lived in Japan for six years and all I could think about was how thankful I am that she is not there now. I can’t even imagine how horrifying it must be for the people who are living through this devastation. My prayers are with them all!

  3. Kathleen, this is such a lovely post. I wish I could do more to help than just a donation, we all do what we can. I am so lucky to have an Asian market within walking distance and they all know me so well there. I do love Japanese food, but have never made it to Japan. The most experience I’ve had was when I lived in Hawaii. This soup is so wonderful, love umani…the fifth taste. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  4. Yummmm. We are avid Asian soup lovers in this house. When I make my dashi kombu, I make it extra strong, then pour the cooled liquid into ice cube trays. It makes a super quick add-in to many of our lunchtime noodle bowls.
    Thanks for sharing !

  5. Hi Kathleen,

    So nice of you to write a post “thinking of” the people in Japan. So hard to imagine what those kind people are enduring. Hope all is well in P.V.

  6. Darlene

    Your travel to Japan and to South Korea is most interesting.
    I love Miso and the Japanese Noodles having survived on the noodles in my youth. Your tribute is heartfelt and we all hope and pray for the best outcomes for a nation that is suffering such horrific catastrophes.

  7. Wow this soup looks simple and delicious!! I don’t have many Asian markets around here, but I do live close to Chicago where they are plentiful! I have always loved the freshness of Asian cooking. Have a great weekend- Paul

  8. Your soup looks absolutely lovely! I’m as crazy about Japan as I am Mexico, but will likely never get to go there, so I must be satisfied with my personal long-distance love affair with Kyoto. Our hearts go out to them and our monies are already on our way to Red Cross. Thank you for your remembrances about Korea…sounds absolutely wonderful!

  9. Pingback: Dashi Broth and Japanese Aid « Cooking in Mexico | Midia Social

  10. I love Japanese food. They are simple and they know how to extract that extra flavour called umami even without the use of MSG. For me, I haven’t seen Japan yet, but the nearest encounter would be when they placed some of my blog articles in one of the Filipino Magazines there. It was a shock for me not because they chose my blog, but days after it was published and me getting good site stats from Japan, the earthquake happened.

    1. So many recipes rely on MSG for an extra flavor boost of umami, but certain ingredients, like mushrooms, meat, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, dried seaweed and fish sauce, can also add this taste, sometimes described as meaty or savory.

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