Dashi is a type of cooking stock used as a base for soups and other dishes in Japanese cuisine. It is surprisingly easy to make compared to stocks here in the West. The secret to a good Japanese stock/broth is to use ingredients filled with umami – ‘the fifth taste’.
Traditionally, dried fish flakes called ‘katsuobushi’ and kelp seaweed are the basis for Japanese stock. Since katsuobushi is quite difficult to get outside Japan and expensive to buy, I tend to use kelp seaweed only or a mix of kelp seaweed and shiitake mushrooms, as these raw ingredients are also filled with umami and are widely available. We have an abundance of kelp seaweed here in Ireland, which can be bought in health stores, large supermarkets and fishmongers, so Ireland really is the ideal place to make dashi!
Dashi no moto: instant stock
Instant stock (also called instant dashi) is a dry ingredient that comes in granules and can be used to replace home-made dashi. Using instant dashi in Japanese cooking is similar to using stock cubes for cooking here in the West. Outside Japan it can be difficult to source so, depending on where you live, it may be easier to make home-made dashi. The most popular type of instant dashi granules available is called ‘hon-dashi’, made by a company called Ajinomoto. To use instant dashi granules for any of the miso soup recipe add 1 teaspoon of instant dashi granules to 1 litre of water. I recommend making dashi from scratch if possible, as nothing compares to the depth of flavour in home-made dashi and you also have the comfort of knowing exactly what’s in the stock. What follows are three recipes for home-made dashi.
If I’m completely honest, this recipe came about with a little luck using ingredients I had at home to make a last-minute lunch. Generally dumplings would be added to this type of noodle dish, but the meatballs work really well. The light soy broth works well in month summer and winter months.
4 bundles or portions of udon noodles
1 spring onion to garnish
shichimi togarashi and/or chilli oil to garnish
For the broth
1 litre chicken stock
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sake
salt and pepper to season
For the meatballs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sake
salt and pepper to season
250g good quality pork mince
For the toppings
100g pak choi leaves, washed and roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut julienne style
4 eggs, hard-boiled, deshelled and halved
1 Pour the chicken stock into a large saucepan, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the soy sauce and sake, and season. Mix well and reduce to a very low simmer.
2 Meanwhile, for the meatballs, in a large bowl, mix the soy sauce, sake, egg, salt and pepper together. Then add the panko and pork mince. Using your hands mix well together.
3 To make the meatballs, measure out a heaped teaspoon of minced pork mix. Then, using dampened hands, roll into the shape of a small meatball. This should make about twenty-five meatballs, depending on the size.
4 Heat some oil in a heavy-based pan on a medium heat. Place the meatballs into the hot pan and cook, turning every few minutes until they are browned on all sides.
5 Cook the udon noodles according to the pack instructions. Then toss into the broth, bring back to the boil and then immediately reduce to a simmer again.
6 Divide the udon noodles and broth between four bowls, and add the meatballs, raw vegetables and eggs if using.
7 Finally garnish with finely sliced spring onion and shichimi togarashi or chilli oil.
Ramen is one of the ultimate comfort foods. Although ramen is now part of the Japanese culture, it came originally from China. In Japan each ramen restaurant will have their own secret stock recipe and this is guarded from one generation to the next. You can find ramen stalls on street corners and these are popular places to visit on the way home after a night out.
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and pepper to season
1 chicken breast, butterfly cut
1 litre chicken stock
1 tablespoon dried seaweed
2 packs of egg or ramen noodles (about 400g)
3 tablespoons white miso paste
100g beansprouts, washed handful of pak choi leaves, washed and roughly chopped
spring onion to garnish shichimi togarashi and/or chilli oil to add a little spice
To serve ramen you’ll need;
2 large bowls 2 spoons 2 sets of chopsticks
1 To make the marinade for the chicken breast, in a small bowl mix together the sake, vegetable oil, salt and pepper.
2 Using your hands, completely cover the chicken in the marinade and leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
3 Once the chicken is ready, heat a heavy-based pan on a medium to high heat and seal the chicken on both sides. Then reduce the heat and continue to fry until the chicken is cooked through and set aside.
4 Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan and immediately reduce to a simmer.
5 Place the dried seaweed in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes to soften. Then squeeze out any excess water and set aside.
6 Place the noodles in a bowl of boiling water and gently untangle using a fork or chopsticks. Drain in a colander and rinse under a running cold tap to remove any excess starch.
7 Toss the noodles into the stock. Bring the stock back to the boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer.
8 In a small bowl, mix the miso paste with a few tablespoons of hot stock from the saucepan, dissolving any lumps. Add the miso paste to the stock and mix well together.
9 Divide the noodles between two large serving bowls. Then divide the seaweed, beansprouts and pak choi evenly between the two bowls, arranging carefully. Slice the cooked chicken breast and place on top of the ingredients as shown in the picture.
10 Finally, fill the bowls about three-quarters full with the miso stock and garnish with spring onion and shichimi togarashi or chilli oil.
I remember collecting buckets of persimmon fruit (also called sharon fruit) with the elementary school children behind the local school where I worked in Japan. It reminded me of how we pick apples here in Ireland. In the past few years I was delighted to see this beautifully coloured fruit in my local supermarket. It is best eaten ripe otherwise it will be hard and bitter. To check if it’s ripe just press on the skin and it should be soft to touch. A really ripe persimmon can be eaten by slicing the top off the fruit and scooping out the flesh with a spoon. The persimmon and white chocolate cream in this recipe are a marriage made in heaven!
puff pastry, shop bought and pre-rolled (320g puff pastry makes 9 servings)
5 persimmon fruit (about half a persimmon fruit per serving),
brown sugar to dust
100g good quality white chocolate
250ml fresh cream, whipped
icing sugar to serve
1 Unwrap the pastry and roll out on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife cut the pastry into rectangular pieces large enough to serve one person for dessert. For 320g of puff pastry I divided the pastry into nine servings.
2 Peel the persimmon fruit, cut in half and then into thick slices.
3 Place four or five pieces along the centre of the pastry. Dust with brown sugar.
4 Bake at 200°C in a fan oven for 10–15 minutes until the pastry is slightly browned and crisp.
5 Break the white chocolate into small squares and place in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water on a medium heat. Allow the chocolate to slowly melt while stirring.
6 Once completely melted set aside for a few minutes to let cool a little, then add to the whipped cream and mix well together.
7 Serve the persimmon tart with a spoonful of white chocolate cream and dust with icing sugar.
4 eggs, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour
1 tablespoon ingredient matcha powder
250ml whipped cream for filling
icing sugar for dusting
You’ll need swiss roll tin (10” x 15” or 13” x 9”)
1 Preheat a fan oven to 180ºC.
2 Whisk the eggs and caster sugar in an electric mixer for about 10 minutes until nice and fluffy.
3 Sieve the flour and matcha together a few times to make sure the matcha powder is completely mixed into the flour.
4 Using a large spoon gently fold the sieved flour into the egg and sugar mix.
5 Carefully line a baking tin with greaseproof paper and lightly grease with butter.
6 Pour the batter into the baking tin, using a spatula to gently even it out.
7 Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until a skewer/sharp knife inserted comes out clean.
8 Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes in the baking tin.
9 Turn the cake over onto a clean tea towel, then carefully peel off the greaseproof paper.
10 Roll the cake in the tea towel and allow to cool (this will avoid it breaking later).
11 Unfold the cake when it is cool and spread the whipped cream evenly on the cake.
12 Roll again and dust with icing sugar. Put in the fridge until ready to eat.
The past few years has seen an increasing interest in bone broths due to their amazing health benefits. This recipe is similar to a standard chicken stock recipe but I’ve added a few ingredients to give a Japanese flavour and umami to the stock, including kombu (kelp) seaweed. After cooling the stock you can remove the thin layer of fat sitting on the surface of the liquid. Then it can be stored in the fridge for a few days or it can be frozen.
Makes 1 litre
1½ litres cold water
dried kombu (kelp), a postcard sized piece
raw whole chicken carcass
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 leek, washed and roughly chopped
1 thumb-size piece of ginger, cut into slices
2 tablespoons sake (optional)
1. Place 1½ litres of cold water and dried kombu in a large saucepan. Set aside for at least 20 minutes to allow the water to absorb the umami from the seaweed.
2. Add the chicken carcass, carrot, leek, ginger and sake to the saucepan.
3. Bring to the boil and immediately reduce to a simmer.
4. Use a ladle to remove any foam from the top of the water and cover with a lid.
5. Continue to simmer for at least 1 hour and for up to 3 hours on a low–medium heat.
6. You should have a little over 1 litre of chicken stock left depending on how long it’s been simmering.
7. Strain the stock through a sieve and allow to cool. 8 Store in the fridge for a few days or freeze.