All about dashi in The Japan Times

This month’s Japan Times food article is all about dashi. Dashi has been covered on this site many times, but I wanted to write about it for the Japan Times readers because it’s so fundamental to Japanese cooking. If you have any desire to make good Japanese food, you need to know how to make dashi. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult, using the right ingredients. The article also includes a recipe for a dipping sauce you can use with any kind of cold Japanese noodles.

As usual, my Japan Times articles are written for people who live in Japan. Most of the readers of Just Hungry don’t live in Japan, so it may be a bit difficult to get a hold of some of the ingredients I talk about. Just do what you can, really - ma-konbu may not be obtainable where you are, so just get the best quality you can afford. (Good kombu is quite thick and leathery.)

The same goes for katsuobushi, or shaved bonito flakes. The ideal may be to get a whole block of dried katuo, and a special grater.

katsuobushi.jpg

But it’s a tedious business, and it can be hard to get a hold of the whole bonito or the grater. Pre-grated katsuobushi is perfectly acceptable. Just make sure you close up the bag tightly after each use (or transfer it to an airtight container) to keep it fresher longer.

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23 comments so far...

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Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

Katsuobushi comes in many sizes. Really fine and thin, slightly thicker and what looks like wood curls from a plane.
Can you comment on which is best for dashi? Does it have a descriptive label on the package? Dashi is the best!
Thanks.

EmeryJet | 25 June, 2012 - 17:02

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

That sort of calls for a full post so I'll do that soon ^_^

maki | 26 June, 2012 - 11:15

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

I've been trying to find a dried katuo forever. Can it be sourced online? I thought about using Rakuten and google translate, but I'm still hopeful that there is an easier way. The special grater is easily found.

Joe | 26 June, 2012 - 01:16

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

I've never seen whole katsuobushi for sale outside of Japan unfortunately.

maki | 26 June, 2012 - 11:19

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

At least one producer has a web shopping service now (but it ships within Japan only), so with some work it's possible to get.

I got a shaver (originally meant to be decorative) long ago, and for a while got blocks of katsuo via private importation as I had to try it at least once. My local importer has a street address in Japan. I haven't ordered a block (or ma kombu to go with it, it's kind of a must) in a long while though, after I calculated the price per cl of dashi :). Freshly shaved the fragance is awesome, but sourced that way it's terribly expensive dashi. So unless one is into making at home clear soups that costs as much as it would in an expensive restaurant in Kyoto...

Another thing that makes it very impractical outside japan is that the blade of the shaver needs to be finely tuned to be just the proper height for shaving (or you get powder), which the maker of shavers does - but it will almost certainly have moved during transportation. It took a good 20 min to the japanese lady at my shop to adjust it with a little wooden hammer, and she only remembered how to do that because it was her job to shave katsuo when she was a kid. I seriously doubt I would have been able to do that myself!

Dominic | 28 June, 2012 - 16:07

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

You can now buy katsuobushi at Amazon.

anon. | 18 December, 2012 - 08:55

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

after a bit of searching, i found a thread on Chowhound (i think) which lead me to this site:

http://bouletteslarder.com/

they sell japanese items, but if you call & actually talk to them you can get a katsuobushi & kanna. i had a few other items included, & my total order came to abut $350. the kanna itself brought up the price a bit, & i think the katsuobushi itself was like $125.

i've been very happy w/ the one i got :) if you call, you have to call @ the right time b/c it's a restaurant. after 1300 (pacific) seems to work out. beth is the one who helped me out & she was great :D

FantaEin | 11 July, 2012 - 10:39

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

I love shaved bonito flakes, especially on Takoyaki or a chunk of fresh tofu.

Daniel McBane | 26 June, 2012 - 10:04

Mentsuyu storage

I just read the JT article, and one thing struck me as odd. I've been making mentsuyu to use for zaru-soba for about 2 years now, but it never kept longer than 2 days in the fridge. My recipe is slightly different. (Mirin, Sugar, Soy Sauce, then instant-dashi, all brought to a boil and then left to cool down) With this combination mould starts to grow on the surface after about three to four days.

Could it be that the sake is neccessary to make it less likely to go bad? I seem to recall though that I sometimes DID add sake to the above recipe and it still went bad...

Brett | 26 June, 2012 - 15:00

Re: Mentsuyu storage

That is strange. Are you sure it is really mold and not some kind of sediment? I guess your container is clean before you put the mentsuyu in there, etc. You can also try making kaeshi instead, which can be kept in unrefrigerated storage. http://www.justhungry.com/basics-kaeshi-soba-and-udon-noodle-soup-or-sau...

maki | 26 June, 2012 - 19:50

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

I have read that David Chang of Momofuku has invented a pork product similar to katsuoboshi. Has anyone heard more about it?

Jim Takita. | 26 June, 2012 - 22:13

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

My uncle in Osaka makes an amazing dashi, I tried making some a couple of times and it just doesn't taste as good as his. :( I guess I better pay him a visit to learn his secret. I might even share it in here too! (LOL)

http://www.bestjapanesemedicaltranslation.com/

Kent Byron-Middlemarch | 27 June, 2012 - 18:37

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

Great article, I really enjoyed reading it.

muskratbyte | 27 June, 2012 - 23:20

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

I like this blog.Your blog is very interesting.

Do Do Ra | 28 June, 2012 - 08:18

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

This brings back good memories of my childhood because my parents bought a similar grater when we went to Japan and we came home with a few large, whole dried bonito. As a child, I remember eating the freshly shaved katsuo bushi, and it was GOOD. I enjoyed snacking on it (yes I was a strange kid). Now that I am older I understand why the weird-looking dried out black fish and the odd wooden box was SO important to them and why it was such a big deal. I should hunt down that boxy grater at my parent's house...

Judy | 29 June, 2012 - 08:33

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

Visiting Japan is my dream.

Ellen | 21 July, 2012 - 03:55

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

i heard great things about dashi. i hope to use it in my cooking the near future, thank you for the post. ^^

olivia kim

oliviajasonkim | 22 July, 2012 - 03:10

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

As mentioned using finished Katsuobushi flakes is totally acceptable. But I personally find that besides the additional pleasure of making your own flakes the ones from fleshly grated whole katsuobushi blocks are more intense.

But it hard to get it outside of Japan. Here is an online shop that lists artisanal whole katsuobushi with worldwide shipping:

http://www.ANYTHING-FROM-JAPAN.COM/Katsuobushi-Block-p/9.htm

Nicolas | 16 August, 2012 - 11:16

Sodium content?

Is there any telling how high the sodium content is in katsuobushi? I've recently learned that I will need to eliminate as much salt from my diet as possible, so I'm cutting down the soy sauce in recipes to 1/3 (it's tough, but better than not enjoying the meal at all, I guess...). I thought relying more on the flavor of fresh dashi in recipes like takikomi gohan might still make it nice and tasty with the reduction of soy sauce. I'd like to know your opinion.

Kashipan | 18 September, 2012 - 06:18

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

Cool look deeper into katsuo. I've never seen that cool wooden grater or whole katsuo, happen to know of any online sources to find them?

Rjong90 | 23 October, 2012 - 01:10

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

Maki-san,

Just wanted to say thank you for your recipes. We made agedashi tofu and chicken karage and it was delicious: top notch, restaurant quality. We used another sites recipes for yakisoba and yakitori, which was strange because one of the sites asked for a dashi-soy sauce which i've never seen or heard of. Can you enlight me on this ingredient?

xuan | 12 November, 2012 - 21:10

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

I have found a site to order from for kombu and katsuobushi, but I'm a little stuck. What is the kanji for "ma" in ma kombu?

Sarah Jane | 24 November, 2012 - 19:23

Re: All about dashi in The Japan Times

Thank you for you have entered the joy and happiness to my heart
I wish you success and lasting success
And I hope that we will remain always sustained through this wonderful Blog

asae | 3 December, 2012 - 11:37

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