On bright, sunny days, a blue basket bobs from my local restaurant's door frame. I was with a good friend the first time that I saw this.
Me: "Hey, what is that? What is in that basket!?"
Friend: "Those are the fish used in dashi. This restaurant is drying the fish in order to make their own!"
Dashi is to Japanese cuisine as chicken stock is to Western cooking. Every supermarket has a huge section of aisle devoted to pre-made dashi, which can be purchased in many different bottle sizes and flavors. Customers can even purchase packets of dried dashi powder. Just add water to achieve the desired level of intensity! I always keep a bottle in my fridge, as even non-soupy Japanese recipes often call for a splash of dashi, for flavor.
|The restaurant around the corner from our apartment.|
Here, my local restaurant is preparing a stronger soup stock called niboshi dashi. This dashi is made with the tiny sardines that are drying in the bright, blue basket. This particular dashi is used for thick miso soups and noodle broth. Yum!
Interested in making your own dashi? Food Of Japan features a very simple recipe! Not so interested in drying your own fish? The recipe featured here is for the most basic kind of dashi, which uses dried bonito flakes. You can buy them in any local grocery store!
1 piece of dried kombu (kelp), about 10 cm/3-4 inches long
1 litre or 13/4 pints cold water
Handful of katsuo (dried bonito flakes), about 25 g/1 oz.
Gently wipe the kombu with a damp cloth to remove any white salt deposits. Do not wash, as you will remove the flavor. Place the kombu, together with the water, in a large, cooking pot. Heat for about 10 minutes, until it reaches boiling point. The fleshiest part of the kombu should be slightly soft. Remove kombu. Add four tablespoons of cold water and the katsuo flakes. Bring back to a boil and then remove from heat.
When the flakes have settled at the bottom of the pan, remove them by straining with a piece of white muslin to obtain a clear and delicate stock for use in clear soups. -Food of Japan, page 49-50.
Disclaimer: I do my best to make sure all my information is accurate. However, details may change or I may just be flat-out wrong. Please let me know if something needs a correction. Thank-you!