Japanese Cookbook 101 – part 1. Dashi, Misoshiru, Furikake

いらっしゃいませ!

Welcome to my kitchen. Last year when I visited Japan, I fell in love with local food and I’ve missed it very much since then. It’s hard to find decent Japanese restaurant here in Czech Republic, but at least we have two good ramen shops and decent sushi. But that’s the extent of Japanese cuisine in most part (if you don’t want to go to really expensive places), which gave me the idea to try recreate some dishes at home myself. I’m not as bad cook as some other members of our AniTAY’s team (not pointing fingers, right Rait?!), but I know next to nothing about preparing Japanese food, so I decided to start from the basics and I thought, I’d take you on the ride with me.


Dashi

If you decide to start making Japanese food, you’ll realize that a lot of recipes require dashi (だし, 出汁), Japanese soup stock. At first you might feel intimidated by not know ingredient, but in fact it’s the easiest soup stock anyone can make from scratch. It requires only 1 or two ingredients and about 20 minutes of prep time.

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There are five different types of dashi you can use in Japanese cooking, including vegetarian and vegan dashi:

  • Kombu Dashi → made from kombu (dried kelp)
  • Katsuo Dashi → made from katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
  • Iriko Dashi → made from iriko or niboshi (dried anchovies/sardines)
  • Shiitake Dashi → made from dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Awase Dashi → made from a combination of all above or two (e.g., kombu + katsuobushi)

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In this article I’ll be leading you through the process of making Awase Dashi from kombu and katsuobushi. You can see all ingredients in the image below (there are actually more as I took only one picture with the rest ingredients to make the miso soup).

From left: spring onion, shiro miso (white miso), katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), kombu (kelp), udon

Ingredients (for about 1l of dashi)

  • 1 liter of water
  • 10 grams of Katsuobushi
  • 10 grams of Kombu (Kelp)

Steps

1. Put water with kombu in medium saucepan (you can cold-brew it prior cooking, 2-3 hours in summer, 4-5 hours in winter or overnight in the fridge) over low-medium heat, skimming the foam in the process if you want to have clear dashi.

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Kombu right before boiling

2. Set aside right before boil and remove kombu from the saucepan (save it for later) to prevent dashi going bitter and slimy. Add katsuobushi and bring to boil.

Katsuobushi in kombu dashi

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3. Let it simmer for about half minute and then turn off the heat and let katsuobushi sink to the bottom while covered (about 10 minutes).

4. Strain it to container (save katsuobushi for later) and let it cool. You can either keep it in fridge for 3 – 5 days or you can freeze it for about two weeks.

Finished Awase Dashi

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Note: With the leftover kombu and katsuobushi you can either do another batch of dashi – called Niban Dashi (second dashi), which would be not that strong flavoured as the first batch (Ichiban Dashi) or you can make homemade rice seasoning Furikake (see below).


Misoshiru with udon noodles

One of the staple of Japanese cuisine is definitely miso soup (misoshiru 味噌汁). Miso is a traditional seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, resulting into thick paste. It’s used in sauces, for pickling vegetables or meat and mixed with dashi in misoshiru.

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Ingredients (2 servings)

  • 0.5 liter of dashi
  • 2 Tbsp. of white (shiro) miso paste
  • 200 grams of udon noodles
  • 2 spring onions

Steps

1. Start heating dashi in medium saucepan over low-medium heat. Meanwhile prepare the udon noodles based on the instruction on package. (Mine were to cook for two minutes in boiling water and then put into soup stock and cook for another minute.)

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2. After adding noodles into dashi, stir in miso paste until fully dissolved.

Added udon noodles into dashi and stirring in miso paste

3. Take your Japanese knife (obviously forged by your hands) and cut some green onions.

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Chopped spring onion

4. Put noodles with misoshiru into bowl, sprinkle spring onions over it and enjoy! いただきます。

Final dish: Misoshiru with udon noodles and spring onion

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Homemade Furikake

Furikake (振り掛け / ふりかけ) is a dry Japanese seasoning meant to be sprinkled on top of cooked rice, vegetables, and fish. It typically consists of a mixture of dried fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, salt, and MSG. Other flavorful ingredients such as katsuobushi, or okaka (bonito flakes moistened with soy sauce and dried again), freeze-dried salmon particles, shiso, egg, powdered miso, vegetables, etc., are often added to the mix. (Source: wikipedia)

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This is recipe for homemade version with what’s leftover after making the first (ichiban) dashi.

Top row: sugar, leftover katsuobushi, leftover kombu, salt
Bottom row: soy sauce, nori seaweed, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds

Ingredients

  • 10 grams of kombu
  • 10 grams of katsuobushi
  • 1 Tbsp. of toasted white sesame seeds
  • 0.5 Tbsp. of toasted black sesame seeds
  • 1 sheet of nori seaweed
  • 1 tsp. of sugar
  • 2 tsp. of soysauce
  • pinch of salt

Steps

1. Cut kombu on small pieces and place it in small saucepan with katsuobushi. Cook it over low heat – stir occasionally not to burn it.

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2. After the ingredients dry out so you can pull easily katsuobushi apart, add salt, sugar and soy sauce. Continue cooking it until all liquids evaporate.

Kombu with katsuobushi mixed with salt, sugar and soy sauce

3. After cooking, let it cool on tray or plate, then mix it with nori seaweed cut into small pieces and sesame seeds.

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This seasoning can be stored in fridge for about two weeks or in freezer for a month. It’s great to sprinkle over rice or fish and might have many more usage – it might even be good over something like popcorn?

FInished homemade Furikake


This will be the end for now. I hope you enjoyed this article and you learned something new. From the savory dishes, I might end up with desert next time, so there is definitely something to look forward to.

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Until then, またね!