Dashi is a super simple Japanese seafood stock. I’m guessing if you’re reading this right now, that you have a Miso soup recipe in front of you that you’re getting ready to make. But if not, you absolutely must try this one; Miso Soup with Shrimp, Shiitake and Bok Choy. Even if you’re not making Miso soup, let me tell you why you should make Dashi your ‘go to’ seafood stock for any recipe.
For one, it’s made with kombu! Kombu is a sea vegetable, aka kelp. The type you’ll use for this recipe is normally sold in dried strips and looks something like this.↓
Here in the United States we rarely integrate seaweed as an ingredient for any recipe, but here are some good reasons why we might want to reconsider, especially when it comes to Kombu.
Beside the fact that kombu is a great source of vitamins K, iodine, calcium, magnesium and iron, there is one other extremely beneficial reason to add Kombu to your diet. Kombu contains enzymes that aid in digestion. These enzymes are able to break down raffinose sugars in beans which cause that bloated, gassy feeling you get after sitting down to a bowl of chili. Once these sugars break down, your body is able to absorb more of the nutrients from beans as well as significantly reduce intestinal inflammation and bloating. So even if the you have no need for Dashi or you could care less about your health 🙃, add some kombu to your next pot of beans or chili and you’ll be seriously relieved that you did (or at least someone will).
The only caution I would take with kombu is that it is fairly high in iodine. This is not a freak out moment. Iodine is actually essential to your health, specifically your thyroid. It helps your thyroid make hormones that help regulate your metabolism. It’s so essential that our government added it to table salt in the 1920s to prevent people who lived in regions of the United States where iodine was not prevalent in the soil from getting iodine deficiency. Iodine deficiency can lead to development of goiters as well as a cause mental retardation. So, you do not have to worry about your intake unless you’re exposed to extremely high doses or if you already have any underlying thyroid issue that an increase in iodine intake might affect.
Just like everything else, consume it in moderation and you will be fine. Besides, I’m going to guess that I’m not going to walk into your house and find you sitting on the couch gnawing on dried strips of kombu. And if you’re making my Miso Soup with Shrimp, Shiitake and Bok Choy, you don’t have to worry about it anyway. See soybeans (miso is made from fermented soybeans) and bok choy contain goitrigens which are compounds that can cause iodine deficiency by interfering with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. So, if you’re consuming too much iodine, these goitrogens will help prevent toxicity from occurring.
Then we come to bonito flakes (aka Katsuobushi) which are simply smoked and fermented Skipjack Tuna, dried and shaved.
Bonito flakes are high in many beneficial vitamins and amino acids. But the real wonder of Bonito flakes is that they contain high levels of inosine acid, which the Japanese believe is the secret to its particularly strong, pleasant and savory flavor or “umami”. This “umami” triggers the fifth taste sensation which adds another less obvious health benefit to the list. Because it tastes good, it creates an emotional state that is relaxed. This relaxed state increases blood flow to the body and reduces stress. That’s right! It makes you feel good.
That’s dashi in a nutshell. It really is that simple. Other than these two ingredients and some water, you’re on your way to enjoying a bowl of this savory broth!
By the way, DO NOT freak out about these ingredients! I know you’re looking at them like, WTF?! But have no fear. They are not that hard to find. See my post on a great local resource. You’ll also find them at your local specialty foods grocer as well. Or if you prefer shopping in the comfort of your own home as opposed to going out and fighting the crowds, you can find these ingredients at Amazon in the by clicking the links provided in the recipe below.
You’re done! Super simple right?
And if you’re not planning on using your dashi right away, or if you have more than you need, it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four weeks in an air tight container. I’ve been making this for the past three days, so that’s my plan.