In the previous article “Dashi and Umami: like a science experiment”, you learned the types of Japan’s most common dashi and how they work. In this article, I will explain how to extract common-used dashi in more detail. You may think it requires some troublesome work because the usage depends on the type of dashi. In fact, though it may not seem easy, once you remember it, it is not that difficult. Acquiring it would be useful for you to further improve your cooking skills, and also you will find there are quite a few Japanese words, so you may also increase your vocabulary.
Making Katsuo Dashi
First, before the talking about the method of extraction, katsuobushi is often called “kezuribushi” if it is in flake-form, as “kezuri” means to be shaved in this context.
Atsu kezuri, usu kezuri, hasai or saihen, ito kezuri and kona kezuri
There are various types of kezuribushi. Thinly sliced flakes called “usu kezuri” look like fluttering petals, so they are also called “hanakatsuo”, as the word “hana” means flower. Thick flakes are called “atsu kezuri”, and they are used exclusively to extract dashi (but actually they can be eaten as they are like crisps). In addition, there are thread-like slices called “ito kezuri”, then “hasai” or “saihen”, that have been cut into smaller pieces from usu kezuri, and powdered ones called “kona kezuri”. Other than atsu kezuri, they are also very often used as a topping to add flavour to dishes such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki and so on.
How to make
・If you use atsu kezuri, step 3 should be this: Boil on medium heat for about 10 minutes while removing the scum.
・At step 4, don’t squeeze the after-extracted kezuribushi, otherwise a harsh taste will come out.
・The left-over kezuribushi can still be cooked as furikake (a condiment for rice or whatever). Chop it into fine small pieces with a kitchen knife, then season with soy sauce or mentsuyu (Japanese noodle soup base), and fry until there is no water or slight moisture in a frying pan. You can add some sesame seeds as you like. Then the furikake is ready.
Making Kombu Dashi
There are four kinds of kombu that are suitable to make kombu dashi: ma kombu, rausu kombu, rishiri kombu, and hidaka kombu.
How to make
・At step 1, don’t strongly wipe or wash the kombu with water, as the white powder on the surface is an umami component and it will fall off.
・At step 3, don’t boil it too much, a stickiness and harsh taste will be released, and then the flavour will be impaired.
・The after-extracted kombu can still be eaten if it is cut into small and then simmered or put into a soup dish as an ingredient, etc. or however you like.
Making Niboshi Dashi
How to make
・For a better taste, their heads and internal organs should be removed, then it’s recommended to roast them, but those preparations aren’t necessary if you don’t have time to spare.
・At step 4, don’t boil it too much, otherwise the fishy flavour will be too strong.
・The after-extracted niboshi can still be eaten if they are fried and then seasoned with soy sauce, etc. or however you like.
Making Shiitake Dashi
Actually, dried shiitake is roughly divided into three types. Those are:
・Donko – harvested before the mushroom’s “kasa” (which means umbrella) opens. The rounded shape and cracked surface are its characteristics. It needs more time than others to stretch due to the thickness, but the texture and taste are very good.
・Koushin – the kasa opens flat and is not thick. Because it is the most reasonably priced among the others, and it stretches quickly, it is the most commonly used for everyday meals.
・Kouko – the mid-size between donko and koushin, combines both of their good points.
How to make
・Dried shiitake 30-50g
・Cold water 1l
・If you have more time, let dried shiitake rest in the sun for about 1 hour. The amount of vitamin D will be increased.
・The ideal water temperature for soaking dried shiitake is 0℃.
Making Awase Dashi (Combination of Katsuo & Kombu)
By combining the different dashi, the synergistic effect of umami is further enhanced. The following is the most common combination.
How to make
How do you feel about the methods above? Although these are Japan’s basic methods to extract dashi, there is not necessarily only one right answer. In fact, the extraction method and flavour of dashi are slightly different by chefs. If you become confident with your preparation, please try to experiment with the amount of each ingredient and extraction time to suit your taste.