Fish flakes… I am cheating, I could start with a block of dried fish and shave it, but I don’t do that. You can buy this “kezuri katsuo”, bonito flakes in Asian grocery stores.
Dashi is the stock. It will take 2 minutes of your time to do it. That’s a basic for decent Japanese cooking.
What’s wrong with instant dashi ? Not much, only MSG, preservatives, flavoring and higher price.
This is one recipe, among others. I use a combo of 3 ingredients, each one could be used alone.
If your Asian grocery is sophisticated, or if you are in Japan, there is a choice of different fish flakes. The taste varies. Usually, the dark color and thicker flakes give a dashi with a stronger taste. The nearly transparent flakes give a delicate flavor.
Kombu seaweed. It’s dry too. The full name is “dashi kombu” as it is so regularly used for dashi.
The white dust is salt, pass a humid cloth on it to clean it off before using.
Niboshi, iriko… whole dry fish. They are very small (2 cm). Some are a little larger, in that case, you can see a black part in the tummy, it’s a little bitter, take it away before using. No need here as you can see. They give stronger taste than the flakes. Well, it’s different. That’s why I use a mix.
1 : In a sauce pan, put 1 hand-full of flakes, 1/2 of dry fish and one small piece of kombu seaweed. Add 4 cups of water. Program your stove for 5 minutes on 2/3 of power. Forget it 20 minutes.
2 : Pass it. The fish and seaweed can be eaten (see below) or not (that’s called wasting).
Here you have dashi, Japanese all purpose stock.
Quicker trick : You can buy empty paper dashi bags (like paper tea bags, which you can use too), and fill them with the ingredients. Store them in the box, so whenever you need dashi, you throw one in a pan of water, or even in the pitcher of your electric coffee maker.