For Japanese cooks, dashi is a universal solvent that ends up in all manner of sauces, soups, and stews. Once you get a hold of the requisite ingredients—which keep well—dashi is by far the easiest and quickest of all broths to make. You bring kombu (dried giant kelp) to a simmer in water, pick it out with tongs, and add a handful or two of dried bonito flakes. Bonito is a tunalike fish that the Japanese dry and smoke until it has the texture of wood and looks like an over-ripe banana. Traditionalists then shave the bonito as needed with a device that looks a little like a shoebox with a blade inserted into one side. However, most cooks, even purists, buy bonito already shaved. Once you have your dashi in hand, think of it as you would any broth and use it to poach vegetables, pieces of seafood, or meat. Dashi is also the base for miso soup, which itself can be used as a base for more elaborate soups, especially those containing seafood.
– ½ lengths kombu, or 18 inches total.
– 1 ounce (about 2 cups loosely packed) dried bonito flakes.
Step 1:Wipe the kombu with a moist towel to wipe away any dust, and then fold it so you can get it into the pot. Pour in about 1 quart cold water and set the pot on low to medium heat so the water takes about 15 minutes to come to a simmer.
Step 2:Fish out the kombu with tongs—you can reuse it once if you save it in the freezer—and bring the infused water to a rapid boil over high heat.
Step 3:Take the pot off the heat and immediately add the bonito flakes. Let the flakes infuse for 2 minutes and then strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container. Let cool for 1 hour at room temperature, and then coverand refrigerate. The broth will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer. If boiled every 5 days, it will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.