Basics of Japanese cuisine: Katsuobushi dashi- 鰹節だし
Dashi is one of the basic ingredient of Japanese cooking and refers like "bouillon" in French or broth to the basic soup used for further cooking. Unlike French bouillon usually made out of fresh vegetables, chiken bones or fish bones... the Japanese dashi is made out of drief ingredients. There are several types of dashi: konbu, dry shiitake, katsuobushi, ninoshi... All are related with the taste of umami. Today let me tell you about katsuobushi dashi (鰹節だし) or dried bonito dashi, since this week I will talk a lot about katsuobushi. This dashi is used in many preparations and recipes.
Actually katsuobushi is not exactly just dried bonito, it also involves a smoking, drying and fermentation processes (arabushi-荒節 and honkarebushi-本枯節), and is usually referred by Japanese as the hardest food in the world. It can be made of different parts of the fish: back or belly, thus more or less fatty giving a different result. The katsuobushi is so hard that it is used in cooking by gratting it to obtain flakes on a special device called katuobushi kezuriki (鰹節削り器). Using this device requires a lot of technique to obtain beautiful flakes and a lot of energy and time. For my chakaiseki classes I learnt how to do it, but for daily use I prefer alredy cut flakes sold in small bags. These flakes are used in many ways (there will be soon a katsuobushi series or week!) and dashi is one of them.
So here are the basics about preparing katsuobushi dashi.
The best is to use a water that is not too hard to obtain the most delicious dashi, and of course a good katsuobushi with a not too thin shaving (kezuri katsuo-削り鰹). A good proportion for a base for soup for two, or further cooking is by using 2.2 cup of water and 1 cup of katsuobushi. Heat the water to 85deg. Add the bonito flakes, boil for about 10sec, and then leave for about 1min off the heat. Filter.
With the recent boom of "back to the roots" and to traditions (mainly after the 2011 earthquake) and the renewal going on in Nihonbashi district in Tokyo, a number of very old and traditional shops have revamped their activities and in particular katsuobushi shops. There are now "dashi bar" where you can enjoy a cup of freshly made katsuobushi dashi, and believe me people are queuing for it! Ninben (www.ninben.co.jp) is one of the most famous in Coredo Muromachi.
The picture in this post is not from me.