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What Is Japanese Dashi and How Is It Used?

What Is Japanese Dashi?

Japanese dashi is a boiled soup of foods such as kombu (kelp), dried bonito, and various other ingredients.

Japanese people use dashi in order to add umami taste extracted from meat, vegetables, mushrooms and seaweed to the dish.

The umami taste is the 5th taste of 5 elements that form human taste. The rest of 4 taste are sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness.

Dashi contains amino acids and nucleic acids that are umami ingredients. In addition to that, dashi is nutritious and also adds aroma to the dish.

What Does Japanese Dashi Taste Like?

You can taste umami flavor from Japanese dashi, and especially the one made from scratch has deep and complex umami taste, and doesn’t have much saltiness and sweetness.
The flavor totally depends on the raw materials of the dashi. So, please check the following section. 

What Is Japanese Dashi Made of?

Some examples of the raw materials of Japanese dashi are dried bonito shavings, kombu, niboshi, shiitake mushrooms, vegetables, and bony parts of fish.
By boiling or soaking those ingredients in water, you can make dashi.
I will talk about the detail in the next section.

Different Types of Dashi in Japan

There are two main types of dashi in Japan.
1. Dashi Made from Material
2. Easy and Convenient Substitute for Dashi

Dashi Made from Material


Speaking of dashi in Japan, it refers to soup stock made by boiling or soaking a specific material in water.
Ultimately, you can make it by just soaking any material containing umami in water. But, please note that there are 8 common types of dashi that are widely used in Japan.

1. Katsuo Dashi
2. Kombu Dashi
3. Katsuo Dashi + Kombu Dashi
4. Niboshi Dashi
5. Shiitake Dashi
6. Ago Dashi
7. Vegetable Dashi
8. Shojin Dashi

Please check this page for details of each one and suitable dish:
8 Common Types of Dashi and Their Uses

Easy and Convenient Substitute for Dashi

Dashi no Moto (Instant Bouillon)

Dashi no moto is made by drying and granulating dashi stock. There are various brands of dashi granules. Among them, “hondashi”sold by Ajinomoto is very famous and widely used in Japan.
The flavor of the dashi granules are not only bonito, but also kombu, iriko (small dried sardine), flying fish, etc.

What Is Hondashi and How Is It Used?

Dashi Bag (Dashi Pack / Dashi Packet)

This is a paper pack containing bonito or whatever powder that become a source of dashi.
The ingredients of the powder differ depending on the manufacturers.

You can easily make dashi stock by putting it in water and letting it boil for a while.
You can enjoy the authentic flavor of soup stock rather than dashi made from granules.

Shirodashi

This is a convenient seasoning that made by adding salt, soy sauce, mirin, etc. to the dashi. Raw materials of shirodashi including the type of dashi differ depending on the manufacturers.

Because various seasonings are already mixed, you can use it as it is for noodle soup or hot pot soup.

What Is Shirodashi and How Is It Used?

Mentsuyu

The ingredients in mentsuyu are very similar to shirodashi. But, it contains regular (dark) soy sauce, on the other hand, shirodashi contains light-colored soy sauce.

In general, mentsuyu is slightly sweeter than shirodashi.

As the name says, “men” means “noodles” in Japanese, it’s perfect material for the dipping soup of noodle dishes such as udon and soba.

What Is Mentsuyu and How Is It Used?

What Is the Best Dashi?

This is a pretty difficult question. As mentioned above, there are so many types of dashi. Each has different umami ingredients and aroma.

Therefore, I think each person has their own favorite dashi. Some people may not be able to eat dashi made from animal-based ingredients, others may not like the fishy scent.

Moreover, compatibility changes depending on the dish you make. So, it’s best to use it according to your taste each time.

What is common in all the dashi is that umami increases dramatically when you combine two or more types of dashi. Please try to combine your favorite dashi while looking at the following page.

The Best Dashi (Food) That’ll Boost Umami

What Can I Use Instead of Dashi?

There are 3 pages for dashi substitutes, so please try to find a substitute that suits you according to the purpose.

10 Best Dashi Stock Substitutes

The 6 Best Kombu (Kelp) Substitutes

The 6 Best Shirodashi Substitutes

Is Dashi Same as Miso?

Please check this page for details of the answer.

Is Miso Paste the Same As Dashi?

What Is the Difference Between Dashi and Hondashi?

Please check this page for details of the differences.

Dashi vs Hondashi: What Are the Differences?

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