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Dashi: Japanese broth

Dashi is a broth and a staple in many Japanese soups, sauces and stews. The ingredients are inexpensive (well, if you have easy access to a Japanese or Asian grocery store), and it’s a breeze to make!

Avoid boiling with kelp, and don’t let the bonito flakes steep for too long —both could result in bitterness. For a smokier flavor, add more bonito flakes. You could also make a second dashi batch, by doubling the steeping time for the (previously used) kelp, optionally doubling the amount of bonito flakes, and using less water (about 3 to 4 cups).

The result is a light broth, whose smell evokes memories of the ocean and beach. It’s not salty, either. The broth becomes the basis of tasty dishes once you add other things like soy sauce, miso paste, saké, mirin, and so forth. Suggestions for use: Dips for vegetables, miso soup, seafood chowders, marinades (for tofu, fish, poultry)…

Refrigerate or freeze leftover dashi, if not using immediately. Several food writers such as Elizabeth Andoh recommend using the broth within a few days, and that freezing might weaken the aroma. However, I have used dashi that’s been frozen for a couple of weeks, and haven’t noticed any problems.


  • 18-20 square inches of dashi kombu, which is kelp for dashi.
  • 1 or 2 packets (usually 5 grams each) of dried bonito flakes for dashi, a.k.a., katsuo boshi,
  • 4 1/2 cups cold, filtered water


  1. Pour the water over the kelp in a stock pot. Cover and steep for 30 minutes.
  2. Turn on the heat to medium; having the pot uncovered is fine. (I keep it ajar, resting the lid to keep an instant-read thermometer from meandering.) As you heat it, tiny bubbles will form on the bottom and side of the pot. The bubbles get a bit bigger as you continue to heat the broth, but they’ll still be small. Once the bubbles (especially those at the edge/side of the pot) race up and break at the top of the water, remove the pot from the heat. You’ll need to keep an eye on this heating process, which takes about 10 to 15 minutes; the temperature reaches about 176F to 178F degrees (80C to 81C degrees). Try to avoid boiling the broth, as this might result in a bitter flavor.
  3. Remove the kelp, which will have doubled in size; don’t worry if you see some slimy bits as you pull it out, that’s expected. Set aside and refrigerate for another use, such as another pot of dashi later on, or relishes.
  4. Sprinkle the bonito flakes over the broth. Allow to steep for 3 to 4 minutes. During this time many of the flakes should sink.
  5. Line a fine strainer with a couple layers of cheesecloth, and place over a large bowl or storage container (which can tolerate heat). Strain the broth, then discard the bonito flakes. Yields about 1 quart.

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