In the beginning...
So, when I first started my recipe group, for recipes from around the world, I was all excited, and me (being me) dived in head first, using the kinds of ingredients I'd already gathered from my culinary travels (and orders from amazon) - you know, the kinds of things you buy and stuff into your kitchen cupboards (I really should check on the weight bearing loads of mine now, it's getting a bit scary - only last week a triple-width shelf collapsed), on top of which it was a great excuse to nip down to my nearest (and rather excellent) oriental shop, given that I'd decided to start in Japan. Well - why not? Fresh, healthy tastes, a little bit different, vegan and vegetarian options, as well as wheat and dairy free food... nothing too complicated in terms of the dishes I was going to present, and their health and obesity rates as a nation are exemplary - what was not to love!
Except of course, not everyone is going to be convinced by the idea of purchasing bonito flakes (Katsuobushi - dried, fermented, skipjack tuna), of which I had an enormous bag still half full left, about to go out of date, as they're not exactly cheap, or kombu (kelp seaweed).
I revisited this a few months later (having already posted several recipes using dashi stock), during the winter months, when soup started getting popular again, and I posted a couple more. This time, I included the option of using dashi/bonito stock/powder, although this wasn't perfect, as often it contains MSG which some people are not keen to consume (and you'd need to check the ingredients if you were cooking gluten free). So in addition to this, I concocted a dashi stock substitute. Not a like-for-like substitute, but something which could be used instead, made from more readily available ingredients, and a sympathetic and more accessible base to use to make Japanese soups, such as my miso soup, and crab, spinach and mushroom ohitashi recipes (perennial favourites here, especially the miso soup with tofu and wakame).
Anyhow, the point of this post is dashi stock, and dashi stock substitutes, in all their forms, so here they are, for if/when you cook one of my Japanese recipes where it's needed (the soups are highly recommended for quick and tasty filling dishes - and even if I do say so myself, the original way I present my ohitashi [yep, the one in the photo, I'm a lil' bit proud of it!] is a fabulous starter for a dinner party idea - let your guests de-construct it in their bowls and enjoy at their leisure).
N.B. This blog seems to be getting a lot of regular traffic - I'm intrigued as to where from as it's been going on for a while, so if you've found this, or cooked this, I'd really love it if you made a comment below to help me solve the mystery and let me know how you found the dashi stock if you made it! Thank you :)
So here you go, dashi stock, every which way but loose (see below for fantastic recipes which use dashi stock):
Dashi stock – including vegetarian dashi
Basic dashi stock
- 1 piece of Kombu (kelp seaweed), postcard-sized
- 1 litre water
- 20g bonito flakes (a handful)
Soak the kombu in the measured water for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Place over a moderate heat, and when small bubbles appear, and the kombu begins to float, remove it (and reserve for other uses). Put in one ladleful of cold water, followed by the bonito flakes. Turn up the heat slightly, and cook until the liquid almost boils (but not a full boil). Turn off the heat and let the bonito flakes settle to the bottom. Strain the dashi through a fine sieve lined with a piece of kitchen towel. Store in the fridge for several days, or freeze in portions.
Vegetarian / vegan dashi stock
- 2 postcard-sized pieces of kombu (kelp seaweed)
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 litre water
Soak the kombu and mushrooms in the measured water for an hour, then place over a low/moderate heat. Slowly bring the water to the almost-boil, and when there are small bubbles and the kombu begins to float, remove it. Increase the heat, and boil rapidly for 2 minutes, then turn off, and allow the liquid to cool before removing the mushrooms, and straining through a sieve lined with kitchen towel. Store in the fridge for several days, or freeze in portions.
Dashi Stock Substitute
For those wanting to cook my Japanese recipes, who can’t get hold of the ingredients for dashi stock, or instant dashi powder, or want a quick substitute (vegetarian alternatives included) this doesn’t taste exactly the same as dashi stock but it makes an excellent base with similar sea and umami flavours in it, which is perfect for making all of the delicious Japanese recipes you can find here that use dashi stock.
51 calories for one quantity, 10 calories per 100ml.
- 500ml light chicken (or vegetable) stock (make up about 10% weaker than normal, and try to get a really plain stock/bouillon that isn’t ‘herby’ – I use Knorr ‘Touch of Taste’ Boullion concentrate which comes in bottles) 
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce (you can get vegetarian oyster sauce, widely available, most oyster sauces contain gluten, but there are gluten free, e.g. ASDA own brand, substitute coconut aminos for Paleo) 
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce (use tamari for gluten free/Paleo, or coconut aminos) 
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce (or vegetarians use an extra teaspoon of light soy/tamari sauce. for Paleo, Red Boat brand is suitable) 
- 2 small dried shiitake mushrooms (optional) [removed after cooking]
Bring the stock to a simmer in a pan over a low heat. Rinse the dried shiitake mushrooms briefly under the tap (if using) and them along with all of the other ingredients to the simmering stock. Cover, and simmer for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how much time you have. Remove the shiitake mushrooms (you can strain at this point, if you think the mushrooms have deposited any grit, but hopefully this won’t be necessary) and use the stock as required.
If you’re not using the mushrooms, there is no need to simmer the ingredients together, simply add the other ingredients to the stock, and use. If you find the stock is too salty for your taste (this will vary depending on which brand of stock cubes or boullion powder you use), simply dilute with a little water to taste. I use 4 teaspoons of Knorr Touch of Taste Chicken Boullion concentrate to 500ml.
Some simple, healthy, low-calorie and delicious recipes to use this stock in on my blog
(just click on the titles to see the recipes)
Crab, Spinach and Japanese Mushroom Ohitashi
Miso Soup (with traditional ingredients)
Aubergine (Eggplant), Pork and Ginger Miso Soup
Shiitake Mushroom and Egg Ribbon Soup
Hokkaido Salmon Hotpot