Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Basic Japanese Cooking: homemade fish stock - Dashi

Japanese homemade fish stock (dashi) is very easy to make compared to beef stock or chicken stock using only 2 ingredients and water. Dashi is used as a base in Japanese cooking for soups, sauces, stews and many other types of Japanese dishes so it's useful to know how to make dashi.

You can buy ready to use dashi powder called hondashi. I use it if I'm really stuck for time and my homemade dashi stock has run out! It's probably best to know that hondashi is not as healthy or tasty as homemade dashi and it contains MSG, salt and other ingredients that you'd prefer to avoid! Please click here to see a picture of hondashi so you'll be able to find it in the market.   

When I worked in Japan I lived in a small rural village so everyone in the community knew me as I was one of the few foreigners living in the area. Over time I got to know my neighbours and they became my friends. I rarely had to buy rice as my neighbour who harvested rice always called over with a bag of rice. He would get annoyed if he heard that I bought rice in the supermarket as he thought his rice was the best! I remember one of my elderly neighbours showing me how to make dashi. The only difference between her recipe and this one is that she used fish head and bones instead of katsuobushi (dried shaved bonito flakes). However, a lot of Japanese people also use katsuobushi as it's more convenient and the taste isn't as strong.

1 litre water
20g of kombu (dried kelp) seaweed - the size of a postcard
20g katsuobushi (dried shaved bonito flakes)

  1. Put 1 litre of cold water in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the kombu to the water and leave it soaking for about 20 minutes. 
  3. Heat the water until it comes to the boil and remove the kombu immediately.

5. Add the katsuobushi to the water and bring it to the boil again. Once the water starts to boil take it off the heat and let it sit until the katsuobushi sink to the bottom of the saucepan. 

3. Drain the dashi through a sieve lined with kitchen towel (you can store it in the fridge for about 3/ 4 days).

  1. Freeze any unused dashi in containers and ice-cube trays.
  2. Wipe the kombu with a damp cloth before putting it in the water.
  3. Make a weaker dashi which is called "niban dashi" with the used kombu and katsuobushi from the first dashi which is called "ichiban dashi". Simply put 1 litre of water in a large saucepan and add the used katsuobushi and kombu to the water. Heat the water and remove the kombu just before it comes to the boil. Leave the katsuobushi sitting in the water until the flakes sink to the bottom of the water. Then drain using a sieve lined with kitchen towel.  

Why not:
If you can't eat fish add shiitake mushrooms instead.


  1. Lovely post, in a lovely looking blog. Good fish stock is so hard to come by and usually so messy to make.

  2. Thanks very much for the comment. Let me know if you use it for one of your recipes, I'd love to see that. I'm really enjoying your blog and I'm going to try your homemade curry powder recipe!


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