Dashi is Japanese stock that is typically made from katsuobushi (bonito flakes), konbu (kelp) or shiitake mushrooms. These ingredients are highly concentrated in the amino acids that create umami, which contributes to creating depth, complexity, and enhancing flavor in dishes. Dashi is an irreplaceable component of Japanese cuisine and forms the base for many Japanese broths and sauces.
Two Ways to Brew Dashi
Two ways to brew dashi are ichiban-dashi (first dashi) and niban-dashi (second dashi). Understanding their differences can greatly influence the flavour and aroma of a dish.
Both types are made from katsuobushi or konbu (or a combination of the two). They are differentiated by the slightly different ways they are prepared. Ichiban-dashi is a delicate, aromatic stock that is made by slowly brewing the stock ingredients in hot water. Niban-dashi is a stronger flavoured, umami-rich stock that boils ichiban-dashi ingredients for a second time. These two types of dashi have different usages.
Ichiban-dashi (first dashi)
Ichiban-dashi is a delicate and refined stock. A pot of water is first brought to a boil. After turning off the heat, the stock ingredients soak in the pot for up to 10 minutes, depending on which ingredients are used.
Ichiban-dashi will have a beautifully clear, golden hue, and a strong aroma that is developed from allowing the dashi ingredients to slowly seep in hot water over time. It has a very light, refined flavour with hints of smoky, sweet, and savory tones. Ichiban-dashi is used in light-tasting dishes that showcase the natural aroma and flavour of the dashi ingredients. This dashi is not recommended for strong flavoured dishes as it is easily overpowered by seasonings and condiments, such as soy sauce and miso paste.
Examples of dishes using ichi-ban dashi include:
- Osuimono (clear soup)
- Chawamushi (steamed egg pudding)
- Dashimaki tamago (rolled egg omelets)
- Ohitashi (blanched greens in broth)
- Nibitashi (braised vegetables in broth)
Niban-dashi (second dashi)
Niban-dashi is a stronger flavoured, umami-rich stock that is made by brewing the ichiban-dashi stock ingredients for a second time. Ingredients are boiled in a new pot of water over low heat for an additional 10 minutes. To increase the aroma, additional katsuobushi is added to the pot during the last 2-3 minutes of cooking.
Once it is ready, the dashi will have a lighter brown hue with a subtler aroma. Boiling the stock ingredients for a second time will result in losing the delicate aromas and clear, golden colour. However, the second brew will allow flavours to develop and deepen, forming a strong umami-concentrated dashi.
Niban-dashi will not falter against other seasonings and condiments. This makes it a great option for complimenting strong flavoured dishes. This dashi will have more depth and be ‘tastier’.
Examples of dishes include:
- Miso soup
- Soba/udon soup
- Miso marinated saba (mackerel)
- Nimono (simmer/stewed dishes)
- Takikome-gohan (dashi infused mixed rice)
- Nikujaga (meat and potato stew)
- Nishime (vegetable stew)
Leftover dashi stock can be easily stored in the freezer. The dashi can be stored using a single container or an ice cube tray. It is recommended to use the stock within two weeks as flavour and aroma will decrease over time.
Learn more about dashi in our Dashi: The Ultimate Guide
About the author:
Tiffany spent her childhood exploring Japanese food in the suburbs of Tokyo and helping her Obaachan (grandmother) in the kitchen. These experiences nurtured her passion for food and she is now studying environmental sustainability and food sciences at university. In her free time, Tiffany loves discovering hidden restaurants in Japan, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, and going on runs!