What is DASHI? Should I Make Dashi Every Time?

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In Japanese recipes, you make your own dashi. What’s the difference between a quick dashi stock and a flavor enhancer? Do I have to make my own dashi every time?
To begin with, what is dashi?

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Dashi from How to Cook

The way to make dashi soup in Japanese cuisine is quite simple. However, it is quite different from dashi soup in other countries.

Dashi in Chinese and French cuisine

For example, in Chinese cuisine, the clear broth from ham and chicken is known as Shang Tang, and the cloudy broth from seafood and pork bones is known as Bai Tang. In French cuisine, bouillon is mainly used for soups and fon is used for sauces.

What they all have in common is that they are made by simmering ingredients for a long time to make dashi.

Dashi for Japanese food

In contrast, with Japanese dashi, you take out the kombu (kelp) before it boils and turn off the heat as soon as you add the dried bonito flakes. At best, it takes less than 30 minutes to make dashi.
Many recipes say to make Japanese dashi, but they don’t say to make chicken bouillon. This is because dashi soup for non-Japanese dishes requires far more ingredients and time.

This difference in the way of making dashi is reflected in the difference in ingredients.

Dashi from the Ingredients

According to data from the Umami Information Center, there is a clear difference between dashi soup for Japanese food and dashi soup for other dishes. [www.umamiinfo.jp]

Japanese food dashi broth, for example, is kombu dashi. Glutamic acid, a well-known umami ingredient, and aspartic acid, which has a weak umami taste, make up most of the ingredients.

Chicken bouillon, on the other hand, is a French soup stock. It contains the same glutamic acid, but it also contains a large amount of other amino acids in both variety and quantity.

In other words, Japanese dashi broth has a simple flavor with a limited number of amino acids. While Chinese and French dashi broth has a complex flavor with a variety of amino acids.

Indeed, if you compare the ingredients of dashi stock with those of powdered chicken bouillon, you will find that chicken bouillon has far more ingredients.

When You Do NOT Make Dashi

If it’s chicken bouillon or chicken broth, you can use powdered seasonings without hesitation. But when it comes to dashi, you may feel a little uneasy or even guilty. However, making dashi is a painstaking process, and it is not always fun to do every day. If you live abroad, ingredients can be expensive or hard to come by.

However, dashi powder is not bulky and can be brought from Japan. Ajinomoto is definitely available at Asian supermarkets, and at a reasonable price.

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