The Treasures of Japanese Taste—Dashi 

September 29, 2016

 by Shoko Ota & Yukari Kimura

Kombu (kelp, sea cabbage)

Kombu (kelp, sea cabbage)

Katsuo-Bushi (dried bonito)

Katsuo-Bushi (dried bonito)

 

 

 

The new Popularity of Japanese Food

 

Recently, the number of tourists who are visiting Japan have been on the rise. Japanese food is becoming famous worldwide as a healthy cuisine. One of the basic tastes of Japanese cuisine comes from dashi, which is stock for soup and sauces.

 

 What is “Dashi”?

 

Simply, “dashi” means Japanese soup stock. There are many different kinds of soup stocks that are used around the world. Japanese Soup stock doesn’t use any animal products, however, instead it uses products from the sea: katsuo-bushi (dried bonito) and kombu (kelp). These are important tastes in Japanese food culture. Other alternatives that are sometimes used in soup stocks are mushroom, beans, and other dried fish.

 

How to make “Dashi”

 

Althjough fairly simple, it is said that to make a real good dashi is very difficult and only very skilled cooks can make it. The way of filtering dashi is the same as making coffee. It’s very simple and easy for beginners. It takes only 1-2 minutes to make authentic dashi (first soup). You can also change the thickness of dashi as you like.

 

1. Set up the filter and put in packs of dried bonito, dried tuna and dried kelp into the cup.

 

2. Pour in hot water and cover the top (about 500cc). Wait 1-2 minutes

 

3. Place the dripper over another cupp. Dashi will automatically filter into the cup.

 

Source: Dashi Atelier Soutatsu Products Catalog

 

 

 The Difference between Western Japan and Eastern Japan

 

Did you know Japanese people often use dashi in cooking, and the ingredients differ from place to place? Traditionally, in Eastern Japan dashi is made from katsuobushi. Once it is mixed in udon (a type of noodle dish), the color becomes dark brown and has a taste like soy sauce. Whereas in Western Japan, dashi is made from kombu. Again, when the dashi is mixed in udon, the color becomes yellow, and has a little salty taste.

 

How did this difference occur?

 

Although there are various reasons why this difference in dashi occurred, basically it comes down to the main types of fish use in the regions: western = white meat fish; and eastern = red meat fish. From the history of Eastern Japan, people ate red meat fish very frequently. For example, skipjack and sardine are types of akami (red meat). The taste is known to be very greasy. This is why people from eastern Japan like strong taste. Nevertheless in western Japan, people have been eating white meat fish all the time. For example, herring and Pacific cod are types of shiromi (white meat). The taste is light and simple. Furthermore, Western Japanese people eat it on a daily basis. This is the reason why people from western Japan do not like strong tastes.

nishitohigashi

Bonus fact

Did you know that long, long ago in Japan, the capital in Japan was Kyoto? Of course back then, the distribution of foods to Kyoto flourished. For example, since Hokkaido’s sea cucumber is known to be the most delicious in Japan, a lot of fresh, delicious sea cucumbers were delivered to Kyoto before Tokyo. Therefore, many good quality sea cucumbers were consumed by Kyoto people. Since the transportation technology was not very advanced as it is today, it was very difficult to send products across the Pacific Ocean. If products were sent by land, it would take a long time to get to Tokyo from Kyoto. As a result, the freshness will decrease enormously. This means perhaps the sea cucumber was unpleasant once it arrived.

 

 

Special Thanks:

だし工房宗達京都店 (Dashi Atelier Soutatsu Kyoto store)

 Address: 〒604-8115, 京都市中京区蛸薬師通堺町東入雁金町375-4

OPEN: 11:00~19:00

CLOSED: Tuesday, Wednesday

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