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Tip: Dashi (soup stock)


Above all else, the decisive factor in creating flavor in Japanese dishes is dashi. Traditionally, Japanese make dashi by boiling dried bonito flakes and sea kelp (konbu). Good quality, commercially available dashi packets enclose the powdery shredded ingredients, are very easy to handle, and ready after boiling only 4-5 minutes. The only caveat is that some packets contain a powdered soy sauce derived from wheat – so if you are seriously soy- or gluten-free/celiac, you should read the label well or go with the traditional method.


To prepare dashi from packets, add the indicated amount of water (usually 400-500ml per packet) and packet(s) to a pot. Bring the water to a boil, and after 4-5 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the packet(s) from the pot. Squeeze them to get those last concentrated drops (if you enjoy a stronger flavor). That's it!



BONUS!


The dry packet ingredients can also be used to season dishes directly – salad dressing, fried rice, tempura batter, and more.


Furthermore, after boiling the packets, you can dry them and use the remains to season rice and other dishes as well (Glenn makes a savory breakfast oatmeal this way)!




VEGAN


Vegan dashi, the foundation of Buddhist temple cuisine, is made from shiitake mushrooms and/or sea kelp (konbu). The choice of dashi (fish or vegan) can have a dramatic impact on the flavor of a dish. For example, one type of mixed rice we serve for dinner contains pickled plum (umeboshi) and thin fried tofu (which has an essence of the sesame oil which was used to prepare it). Fish dashi can be overpowering, while vegan dashi creates a beautiful lightness to the rice.

The vegan dashi we use for guests is one of our “secret” ingredients only available from Japan. If you’re interested, let us know and we can arrange a group purchase.


Here are some brands of good quality dashi packets you can buy in the U.S.:


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