The Secret Ingredient David Chang Uses For Flavorful Shrimp And Polenta

Creamy polenta can serve as the perfect backdrop for the rest of your planned meal, or if made well, can become the shining star of tonight's dinner. Such is the case of the polenta made by Chef David Chang, who elevates the dish with a simple addition. With a touch of dashi, Chang transforms the expected dish into an umami-flavored experience.

Dashi is a broth that has helped define umami and is frequently used in Japanese dishes. Made from kelp seaweed and dried bonito fish flakes, the savory broth can also derive flavor from shiitake mushrooms. After straining all of the ingredients, the remaining broth is clear and stunningly flavorful. 

Chang uses powder of the flavorful broth to enhance the polenta he serves. The best part of Chang's culinary ingenuity? It's quick, easy, and doesn't take special talent to upgrade your next meal. Chang's preparation is so straightforward that he can have a finished plate on the table in under 20 minutes. 

Packing polenta with umami flavor

To cook polenta, Chang cooks water, polenta, and dashi powder until the polenta is creamy and soft. A tablespoon of butter is mixed into the prepared dish, and bacon-flavored shrimp cooked with garlic, scallions, and thyme are added to assemble the meal. For the finishing touch, poached eggs crown the dish prior to serving.

If you're having trouble finding dashi in your local markets, consider planning in advance and making your own flavorful broth at home. Homemade dashi can be stored and kept for use in other recipes, like miso soup and umami-flavored vegetables. After trying Chang's dashi-flavored polenta, you may be using the ingredient more often in your meals.

Alternatively, stock dashi powder or dashi soy sauce in your pantry for easy, quick inclusion into polenta, noodle, and pasta dishes, tofu recipes, and marinades. Dashi powder and soy sauce can both be added to recipes that call for the extra depth of umami — and, thanks to Chang, you may never view simple polenta the same way again.