Aug 1, 2019
Japan has always thrived on agriculture, with the cultivation of rice and other crops in its fields. Many wonderful ingredients are also drawn from the wisdom of fermentation and invoke the umami taste discovered by the Japanese. Traditional Japanese food is a product of the
interweaving of natural and dazzlingly handcrafted ingredients — part of the rich food culture that Japan prides itself on.
We live in a time when you can eat anytime and anywhere, but the tradition of having a loving, home-cooked meal at the family dining table and eating it together is important for the nurturing and education of a child. This tradition also plays a vital role in strengthening family bonds. Over the next few issues of OISHII, I will share the appeal of Japanese home cooking.
To kick-start this series, let’s talk about dashi, the epitome of umami flavour. Originally, four basic flavours — sweet, salty, sour and bitter — determined the taste of food. In the early 20th century, scientists added umami, which is now the fifth flavour and essential in Japanese food.
Kombu (kelp) and bonito (also known as skipjack tuna, or katsuo in Japanese) are abundant umami ingredients, and are key in traditional
We also know that umami has a synergistic effect. Adding two different flavours at the same time increases the umami by many times. The
combination of kombu, rich in glutamic acid, and dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi) that are laden with inosinic acid is the strongest combination and the foundation of Japanese food.
Here’s a closer look at three different dashi recipes that are full of umami: basic dashi made from water, kombu and dried bonito flakes, a
seasonal vegetable agebitashi (literally meaning “fried and soaked”) dish, and a dashi-infused Japanese omelette.
40g dried bonito flakes
2 litres water
1. Clean the surface of the kombu with a damp cloth.
2. Add the water and kombu into a pot, and let the kombu soak for more than an hour.
3. Heat the kombu mixture. When small bubbles start to form at the base of the pot, turn off the flame and remove the kombu.
4. Heat the mixture again. Turn off the flame when it starts to boil, then add dried bonito flakes and leave to simmer for 2 minutes.
5. Strain the dashi with a fine-mesh sieve and scrape off the bonito flakes with a cloth or kitchen paper towel.
*tip – Awase dashi or basic dashi can be stored in the fridge for about 2 to 3 days.
(RECIPES AND PHOTOS AYA OSADA / TRANSLATION NOELLE HAN / EDITED BY DENYSE YEO)
About AYA OSADA
In this four-part series, food expert and nutritionist Aya Osada sheds light on the most essential ingredients of Japanese home cooking. First up, the basic broth known as dashi.
Japan Food Expert strongly believes in the concept “to eat is to live”. This is a company that cherishes the environment, nature and the bonds of people. Their top priority is creating and spreading health and happiness through rich cuisine.
In cooperation with Yamahiko, Co. Ltd. and Sakai Shoten Ltd.