A bowl of soba dashi noodles with mushrooms, egg and seaweed.
Dashi is to the Japanese what chicken broth is to the Americans. It’s so distinct in Japanese cuisine that dashi is arguably responsible for the fifth taste, or umami, as it’s now known. That’s because dashi has arguably the most umami savouriness than any other Japanese thing.
Made from just three ingredients –water, kelp and bonito flakes, it’s the essential stock used in many Japanese soup-based dishes, like this comforting shabu-shabu pot.In aslittle as thirty minutes, it can produce an intensely addictive sardine-like taste. And that’s impressive considering that many Chinese and Western stocks take hours to prepare and get a similar quality.
Like soy sauce, there’re many types of dashi for every occasion. If you’re a vegetarian, get shiitake dashi –that’s dashi made with dried shiitake mushrooms. You get a dark brown broth with a deep mushroomy taste. And here, a bowl of ginger sesame soba noodlesworks well with few spoons of it.
Otherwise, the most commonly used dashi is something called awase dashi – one that’s made with bonito fish flakes and kelp. It’s an ideal choice if you want something light, but deeply flavourful. Well you can make dashi from scratch with easily available dried kelp sheets, bonito flakes and shiitake mushrooms, or buy packets of pre-prepared powder and stock.
And you can use it as a soup for noodles, or to replace water in cooking rice or porridge - like an oyster mushroom congee for a deeply umami aroma.
We think though, that it’s best slurped in a warm bowl of soba noodles –one mushroom soba dashi noodlesthat goes down light, slippery and is just right for the night. For a longer and chewier bite, use udon.