Vegan dashi

Dashi, an umami broth, is quintessential to Japanese cooking. Traditionally, the Japanese make their dashi with kombu and bonito flakes (smoked dry fish). However, some Buddhist monks use shiitake mushrooms instead of the bonito flakes for a vegan alternative, called Shojin dashi.

Why make your own dashi?

Dashi is a common dish in Japanese cooking but it usually contains fish. If you eat out or order a takeaway from a Japanese restaurant, sadly 99% of their miso soups, vegetable tempura dips, seaweed salads, pickles, and cold soba noodles are actually not meat-free, even though they misleadingly seem like they would be. Unless you’re able to find a vegan-friendly Japanese restaurant with a clear ‘v’ on the menu, making dashi yourself is the only way.

If you didn’t already know that I apologise for just having opened Pandora’s Box for you. 🙈🙈🙈

Dashi is simple and effortless, easier to make than stock. All you need is water, kombu (dried kelp) and dried shiitake mushrooms.

Some other blogs specify what size of kombu and how many shiitake mushrooms to use. However, both kombu and shiitake mushrooms tend to come in all different shapes and sizes so I find it much easier to weigh them to get the correct proportions.

There are many different varieties of kombu out there but this is the brand I use. It costs around £4 per bag and will last you a long time.

Cut the kombu into strips approximately 4-5cm long as it helps to release the flavour better.

Now, there are two ways to make dashi, either using a hot or cold brew method.

Cold brew

Cover the kombu and shiitake mushrooms in water in a large container and soak them overnight (at least 8 hours) or for the best results, 24 hours.

If you’re making kombu during the summer or you live in a hot region (over 25C or 77F), you should keep your cold brew in the refrigerator as it can get slimy very quickly in hot temperatures.

Hot brew

Heat 1L of water in a medium-sized saucepan on a high heat until it starts to boil. Add the kombu and reduce to a medium-low heat. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Drop in the shiitake mushrooms and cook for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat but keep the lid on and let the mixture rest for 10 minutes.

Whether you used the hot or cold brew method, you now want to strain the dashi through a cheesecloth or fine mesh.

I made my own strainer with a small piece of cheesecloth and a rubber band!

Before straining, I always squeeze the shiitake mushrooms to get out all the goodness. If you are using the hot brew method make sure you wear gloves before you do this as they’ll be pretty hot.

Once you’ve strained the dashi, don’t throw away the leftover kombu or mushrooms. I usually freeze them to use in other dishes like kombu tsukudani or shiitake tsukudani – a small side dish that has been simmered in soy sauce and mirin to make a flavourful accompaniment to plain rice.

Congratulations! Now you’ve got your first homemade dashi! It’s simple, right?

If you’d like to see the difference between the hot and cold brew method, here is a little comparison. The one on the left has been made from the cold brew method, and the one on the right was made using the hot brew method. As you can see the hot brew one is richer in colour and is also more cloudy. Taste-wise, dashi made using the hot brew method usually has a slightly stronger flavour but there isn’t a massive difference between the two.

You can taste your dashi on its own if you’d like – the flavour tends to be quite subtle and mild because its umami flavour needs other ingredients such as miso, soy sauce, salt, or mirin, to bring its full flavour to life. Dashi is hardly ever used without adding additional seasoning to it.

I love miso soup and zaru soba, so I normally make a large batch of dashi that can then be stored in a refrigerator for up to 1 week or stored in a freezer for months.

Let me know if you try out this recipe. You can leave a comment below, or take a picture, tag it with #k33_kitchen and share it on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, hope you enjoy my recipes!


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Difficulty: Easy

Serves: 0.8L – 1L

Prep.: 8 hrs | Cook: 0 mins

Ingredients:
  • 1L water
  • 10g kombu (dried kelp), cut into strips, 4-5cm in length
  • 10g dried shiitake mushrooms
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Instructions:

Cold brew

  1. Cover the kombu and shiitake mushrooms in water in a large container and soak them overnight (at least 8 hours) or for the best results, 24 hours.*

Hot brew

  1. Heat 1L of water in a medium-sized saucepan on a high heat until it starts to boil. Add the kombu and reduce to a medium-low heat. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Drop in the shiitake mushrooms and cook for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat but keep the lid on and let the mixture rest for 10 minutes.

2. Once you’ve made the dashi, either from the cold or hot brew method, strain it through a cheesecloth or fine mesh.

3. Dashi can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 1 week or stored in a freezer for months.

* If you’re making kombu during the summer or you live in a hot region (over 25C or 77F), you should keep your cold brew in the refrigerator as kombu can get slimy very quickly in hot temperatures

 

 

 

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