Umami and Dashi (soup stock) play important roles in Japanese food.

Japanese food was registered as a UNESCO intangible cultural asset in 2013.
Japan has its own unique soup stock called “dashi”, which brings out the flavor of the ingredients. Dashi creates a taste called “umami”, and it’s the core of Japanese food that cannot be classified under any of the other flavors; sweet, sour, salty, or bitter. What are Dashi and Umami? Let’s dig into the world of Dashi and Umami, also referred to as, “the 5th flavor” of food.

2016-07-19 Wasabi   Culture,

Soba


【CONTENTS】
Dashi is the core flavor in Japanese food!
Why is Umami called the 5th flavor?
Dashi can be cooked in a short time by using carefully chosen ingredients.
Dashi is essential to Japanese food!

Udon
Udon
Tempura
Tempura and soup

Dashi is the core flavor in Japanese food!

Udon and Soba are served with plenty of hot soup. The thickness of the broth and ingredients in the soup are important to the taste of these noodles and the most important factor is the stock, or “dashi”.
Dashi is used in a variety of soups and other Japanese food such as “Dashimaki-tamago” (rolled omelet) and soup for Tempura.

Miso soup
Miso soup
Miso
Miso

Miso soup is one of the national foods of Japan that everybody loves.
It is also cooked with stock.

Dried boiled fish
Dried boiled fish
Dried shiitake
Dried shiitake

Why is Umami called the 5th flavor?

Umami is called “the 5th flavor” following sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Umami is composed of glutamic acid and inosinic acid, and dashi produces the Umami.

To make stock, you can use dried bonito flakes, konbu, dried fish, or dried shiitake mushrooms. You can extract glutamic acid from konbu, and inosinic acid from dried bonito flakes. These are all dried ingredients where umami is concentrated, and it’s easy to extract in water.

Dried bonito flakes
Dried bonito flakes
Dried bonito flakes
Dried bonito flakes

Dashi can be cooked in a short time by using carefully chosen ingredients.

Dried bonito flakes are made of steamed bonito, by drying it out with fungus. It’s thinly shredded when the process is finished. To make stock with dried bonito flakes, you put them in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. If the flakes are roughly shredded, you need to boil for about 10 minutes. After filtering out the exceeded flakes, it’s ready to go.

Konbu
Konbu

You can soak konbu in water for about a half an hour on medium heat. Before boiling, take out the konbu. You can also just soak it in water for 3 hours without heating it.

It doesn’t take much time to make stock, but some of the ingredients like konbu and dried bonito take a long time to produce; 6 months for dried bonito and 2 years for konbu.

Dried bonito
Dried bonito
Konbu
Konbu

Dashi is essential to Japanese food!

If you go to the Dashi section at a supermarket in Japan, you’ll find dried bonito flakes, konbu, dried fish, and dried shiitake.

Making stock differs from person to person. Expensive restaurants focus on making good stock, because it’s be the core flavor in Japanese food. Some companies sell ready-made dashi, which is extracted from dried bonito. There are also powder types of dashi that you can quickly use just by dissolving in water.

Dashi
Bottled dashi

You can get to know Japanese life by understanding the culture of Dashi.

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AUTHOR

kyoami

kyoami

Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.