Elevate Homemade Dashi With Store-Bought Concentrate For Deeper Flavor

If you're a fan of Japanese cuisine, you (and your taste buds) are probably well acquainted with dashi, a.k.a. the subtly fishy stock that serves as the foundation for a slew of traditional Japanese dishes. Luckily, it's also one of the easiest and quickest soup stocks you can make from scratch. In fact, our go-to dashi recipe only takes a total of 15 minutes to make. But if you want to take the flavor of this homemade broth up a notch, you might want to consider adding some store-bought dashi concentrate into your brew.

Most dashi is made by boiling and extracting the essence of kombu (kelp seaweed) and dried bonito flakes (thin fish shavings) in a pot of hot water. Many versions of the stock also call for dried shiitake mushrooms and small dried fish called niboshi. The result? A salty, savory, and definitively umami-packed broth swimming with the complex flavors of the sea. Dashi serves a multitude of uses in Japanese cooking. It's used as the base of miso soup, mixed into batters for bites like takoyaki, and even transformed into a jiggly solid in chawanmushi, a savory egg custard dish. It can also be enjoyed as a warm broth on its own. Needless to say, it's a must-have in your kitchen if you hope to whip up any of these Japanese bites yourself.

Dashi concentrate amps up the flavor of the broth

We picked up this tip from none other than chef Mei Lin, the season 12 champ of Bravo's "Top Chef." In a recent Instagram post, the culinary star shared her recipe for chawanmushi, the aforementioned egg custard in which dashi plays a fundamental role. In the video, she revealed that her secret way to "amp up the dashi flavor" is to add about a tablespoon of dashi concentrate to the large batch of broth. You can find this key ingredient online or at your local Asian grocery store.

But that's not the only way Lin ensures the distinctive taste of dashi shines through in all her dishes. In the post, Lin takes us through her process for making dashi, which involves simmering the kelp in a pot of water for about 30 minutes before adding in the bonito flakes, then letting it all steep for yet another 30 minutes. Her recipe takes an hour total, and, of course, the longer you let the ingredients steep, the more potent the stock becomes. When combined with a touch of concentrate, the dashi is guaranteed to pack a powerful punch of umami flavor, which is especially important in dishes where the broth may take a back seat to other ingredients. So whether you're making homemade miso soup or chawanmushi, you'll definitely want to keep a bottle of the stuff on hand.