Kombu dashi (昆布だし) is another key Japanese dashi stock. Its delicate and mellow flavour enhances the overall taste of any Japanese dish. This dashi broth is particularly good for vegan and vegetarian people because it is made from a type of seaweed. Read on to learn how to make delicate kombu dashi successfully.
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What is Kombu Dashi?
Kombu dashi is Japanese dashi stock made from kelp seaweed (kombu). Kombu seaweed is an edible sea vegetable packed with nutrients and minerals such as potassium and is what provides umami richness to dishes. It’s also a great source of dietary fiber. Kombu contains decent quantities of glutamic acid which is one of the umami flavors. This glutamic acid is the white powder you will see on strips of dried kombu so don’t wash it off because that’s where all the umami is!
This edible kelp is usually added to soups and broths as a flavor enhancer and is also added when cooking Sushi Rice and can remove the starchiness from beans making them more digestible. Dashi made by extracting the umami from Kombu is particularly suitable for simmered dishes such as simmered Kabocha squash and one-pot dishes (Nabemono). Kombu dashi is also a primary ingredient for miso soup.
Types of Kombu Suitable for Dashi
There are many different types of Kombu kelp in Japan and not all are the same. Some are suitable for eating and some are suitable for making soup stock. For making Kombu dashi, we need to get dried kelp. They have many different names according to where they are produced, how the kelp can be cooked, and the species of kelp.
For instance, the kelp produced in Hidaka (日髙 in the photo), Hokaidō island is called Hidaka Kombu (日髙昆布). Hidaka Kombu is said to be suitable for both eating and for making dashi stock because kelp produced in the Hidaka area usually has a lower fibre content and is softer compared to other kelps. Other types of kombu include Ma Kombu, Rishiri Kombu and Rausu Kombu.
Two Methods to Make Kombu Dashi Stock
1. Steeping in Water Overnight (Mizudashi)
The ratio of dashi ingredients to water is generally 2-4%. So we need about 1oz/30g of Kelp and 4 cups (about 1 litre) of water. Wipe the kombu kelp briefly with a clean cloth. Fill a container with cold water and add the kelp. Let stand overnight. Remove the kelp the next morning.
2. Steeping & Simmering (Nidashi)
Another way is steeping the kelp in water for at least 30 minutes and then put it over medium heat. Remove the kelp just before the water reaches boiling point. It is important to not let the water boil.
2 Tips for Making Dashi Successfully
- Clean the kombu kelp with a well wrung out damp cloth. Kelp is naturally dried on beaches so it may contain sand. Do not wash under running water though, for it may wash off umami on the surface.
- The best timing of removing the kelp is when you see small tiny bubbles form on the kelp when you put it over the heat. We don’t want to lose the delicate flavour by overheating. The appropriate temperature for extracting the Kombu umami flavour is said to be 140°F (60°C), which is when you see tiny bubbles on the Kombu appear. Turn the heat off and remove the Kombu.
A: I recycle the kombu to make “Kombu Tsukudani”. Cut the Kombu into small squares. Place them in a saucepan with a cup of water and 1 tbsp of vinegar. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Add 2 tbsp each of soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar. Simmer until the sauce reduces (about 20 minutes). Sprinkle sesame seeds over.
Dashi plays a fundamental role in Japanese cuisine. It ultimately determines the overall taste of the Japanese dishes. Mastering Dashi makes cooking Japanese food more fun and definitely more flavourful! Learn how to prepare 5 different dashi broth .
- Katsuo (bonito flake) Dashi
- Kombu (dried kelp) Dashi
- Niboshi (dried infant anchovies/sardine) Dashi
- Shiitake (dried shiitake mushrooms) Dashi
- Awase (combined) Dashi
- 1 oz/30 g Kombu Kelp *1
- 4 cups/1 liter water
Steep (Mizudashi) method
- Clean the kelp with a well wrung out damp cloth briefly *2
- Fill a container with the water and add kelp to steep (soak)
- Let stand overnight, remove the kelp the next morning. *3
Steep & Simmer (Nidashi) method
- Clean the kelp with a well wrung out damp cloth briefly.
- Fill a saucepan with the water and add kelp to steep for 30 minutes up to 1 hour.
- Put the saucepan over medium heat. When the small bubbles form, turn the heat off. *4
- Remove the kelp and transfer the kombu dashi to storing jar. *3
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