by Yukari Pratt
Even the longest journey begins with one step. And your journey in the Japanese kitchen begins with dashi. Dashi is the basic building block without which Japanese cuisine as we know it would not exist. If you want to become proficient in the Japanese kitchen, you must master this one recipe.
I went to one of the best culinary sources I know, chef Kimio Nonaga, the 2002 Iron Chef champion and third-generation chef of Nihonbashi Yukari, a kappo ryori restaurant near Tokyo station (http://nihonbashi-yukari.com). Nonaga says he has recently changed the way he makes dashi based on scientific studies on how best to extract the flavor from kombu. Here is his method of making the basic kihon dashi jiru:
• 1.8 liters water
• 25 grams of kombu (Note: there are several types of kombu, but Nonaga-san prefers a variety known as rishiri)
• 20 grams of katsuobushi
Gently rinse the kombu in water and place in a medium saucepan with the cold water. Turn on heat to medium. Starting at 65ºC, the kombu will release its flavor to the water, so it’s best if the temperature remains between 65ºC and 85ºC. Within that range, there will be a slow stream of bubbles coming from the bottom of the pan. Do not go up to 95 degrees or closer to the boiling point, as this will cause bitterness.
Simmer at this temperature slowly for 25-30 minutes. Your kitchen will start to smell like you are at the beach, and the dashi, when sampled, will taste like the ocean. These are both good things. Continue reading here.