If you’ve ever had a traditional bowl of miso soup, chances are it was made with a Japanese dashi broth. It’s an essential part of Japanese cuisine and gives that classic umami flavor to many Japanese dishes, especially, of course, soups!
That’s kombu, pictured on the left, a type of edible kelp (which is a large type of seaweed) that’s dried into strips and bonito flakes (also called “katsuobushi”), pictured on the right, which comes from a type of dried tuna. You can find both in packaged form in health food stores or Asian markets. Eden Foods is one of the more common brands you’ll find in the former. See their kombu here and bonito flakes here.
A slightly clearer picture when removed from the packaging:
Simmered together they infuse broth with a delicate but clear umami and briny flavor that works so well in so many Japanese soups and stews. Check out my Japanese tomato noodle soup for an example that uses a Japanese dashi broth.
Per quart of water, you’ll need about 4 large strips of kombu and about 2 cups of bonito flakes.
First, add the kombu to cold filtered water in a saucepan and let it soak for 20-30 minutes. A longer soaking period is better if you have the time and/or foresight to prepare it ahead of time. 3-4 hours is better and you could even or even soak it overnight.
Bring the water to a gentle simmer over medium high heat. Just before the water boils, remove the kombu using tongs, like so…
Make sure the water isn’t boiling too aggressively when you do this. Those bonito flakes are very delicate and can easily create a bitter flavor if overcooked via boiling. Cut the heat if need be for a minute or so. Once it’s simmering gently add the bonito flakes and simmer briefly, about 30-60 seconds.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it sit for ten minutes. The bonito flakes will fall to the bottom of the pan.
Strain the bonito flakes from the broth using a colander lined with fine mesh cheesecloth or a paper towel.
Use right away or store in the fridge for up to 2 days or freezer for up to 3 months.
A Japanese dashi broth is an essential part of Japanese cuisine and gives a subtle umami flavor to many Japanese soups. It requires only two ingredients, kombu and bonito flakes.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.