Chefs, Cooking

There and Here: Dashi

As part of our special ‘There and Here’ October programming celebrating the food, people, artisans, and traditions of Japan, we invited Mamiko Nishiyama, the proprietor of Tokyo’s Yagicho-Honten dashi shop, to spend time with us at our Healdsburg store.

Joined by Common Grains founder, writer, and chef Sonoko Sakai (left) and Koda Farms Robin Koda (right), Mamiko has prepared dashi — sometimes called “the olive oil of the Japanese kitchen” for its work as a base of most traditional dishes — for our kitchen and for classes during her short visit to SHED.

We invited Mamiko to sit down with Sonoko for a short talk to learn more about her background and dashi’s role in defining Japanese cuisine. Perhaps best of all, Mamiko shared two of her favorite recipes with us; we’re glad to share them forward with you.

Can you tell us about Yagicho-Honten Dashi?  

We are a Japanese shop in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, that has specialized in selling dashi products for nearly 300 years. Dashi means ‘stock.’ It is the foundation of Japanese cuisine that gives umami to our dishes. Dashi products include konbu seaweed, katsuobushi (bonito flakes), dried shitake mushrooms, beans, etc. I inherited the shop from my father in November of 2014 and became the eighth generation to run the company.

What makes Yagicho-Honten dashi products so special?

We work with Japanese artisans from all over Japan who make premium, top-grade dashi products.  The Katsuobushi is made in Makurazaki, Kagoshima. The Konbu seaweed is harvested in the Rishiri and Rausu peninsulas of Hokkaido, The dried shiitake mushrooms are grown in Oita prefecture and the dried sardines come from Kuju-kurihama in Chiba.

Dashi products are natural and can be affected by environmental condition so, at times, it can be challenging to source them.  We work very closely with chefs and cooks to figure out how to bring in the highest quality product available.  With Katsuobushi (bonito flakes), we test each one for quality. We do our own dashi blends, mixing tuna, albacore, and mackerel.  Making good dashi products takes a good eye and good taste buds!

What memory will you take away from your time in Healdsburg?

I really enjoyed doing the dashi workshop at SHED. I was surprised at all the questions I got from students regarding dashi.  Some students were interested in what we would do with the konbu, niboshi sardines, and katsuobushi used to make dashi. Besides making secondary dashi,  I was  happy to share my recipes, like the spicy Niboshi sardines bruschetta recipe.  Sauteed in olive oil and garlic, and seasoned with chili pepper, these sardines are tasty and easy to make.  There are so ways to incorporate dashi products into Western cooking.  Dashi possibilities are infinite and wholesome.

We thank Mamiko for her time and lending us her intelligence during her tenure at SHED. Here are two wonderful recipes to incorporate the flavors of dashi into your own kitchen:

Basic Dashi Recipe
Makes 4 half-cup servings of stock for use in miso soup.

4 cups water
4 cups of loosely packed bonito flakes
One 3-inch piece of konbu seaweed

Using scissors, make several crosswise cuts in the konbu. This helps to extract the flavor during cooking.Place konbu and water in medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook on medium heat until water almost boils. Remove kombu just before water boils to avoid fishy odor. When the water boils, turn off the heat. Then add bonito flakes. Do not sitr. Let stand for 3-5 minutes to let the flakes steep. Then strain the dashi them through a very fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towel. Don’t stir or press the bonito flakes because it will cloud the dashi.  Discard the bonito flakes and konbu seaweed or cook them in 4 cups of water to make a secondary dashi. Slice the leftover konbu and use it in my salads and pickles to add umami.

Dashi will keep fresh for  3-5 days in the refrigerator, so you can make it in advance and just add miso paste and vegetables for quick breakfast of miso soup.

Miso Soup with Tofu and Scallions
Serves 4

3-4 Tbsp Miso paste (white or red)
1 block of tofu
1/2 bunch scallions
To make the miso soup, Add the miso to the 1/2 cup dashi broth to taste. Add the tofu and garnish with scallions.
Serve immediately.


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