Kitchen Thrift: Kombu Dashi, Japanese Fish Stock

October 24, 2011

in Kitchen Thrift

By Riki Shore

Last month I promised you a monthly recipe that combines great taste with kitchen economy. I kicked it off with a quick chicken stock, and heard from many of you who were already busy in the kitchen making stock. This month I have a recipe for you that’s even quicker, easier and less expensive: kombu dashi or Japanese fish stock.

Miso Ingredients

A cornerstone of Japanese cooking, kombu dashi is made with kombu (Japanese for kelp) and dried bonito flakes. Kombu is a large seaweed that grows in shallow ocean waters. It’s high in potassium, calcium and iodine, as well as vitamins A and C. In cooking, kombu provides glutamic acid, a natural flavor enhancer. Think of this stock as your natural MSG.

Dried bonito flakes, or katsuobushi, are the shavings of dried bonito fish, also called the skipjack tuna. These flakes bring a strong umami flavor to the stock, which I love. Described as meaty or brothy, umami flavors whet the appetite and leave you wanting more. In Italy, a classic umami pairing is red sauce with mushrooms and parmesan cheese (which happens to be very similar to the famous Umami Burger of LA). In Japan, it’s kombu and katsuobushi.

Once you have this tasty stock in your fridge, you can add it to all sorts of dishes. It’s delicious added to a pot of braised kale, or used to steam a fish, or as the cooking liquid for a pot of rice, along with a drizzle of tamari and mirin.

But one of my favorite uses is the humble bowl of miso soup. In the version below, I soak dried shiitake mushroom caps in the kombu dashi, then slice them and add them to the finished soup. As chicken stock is the Jewish penicillin, this miso soup must be the Japanese cure-all. It’s light, nutritious and comforting.

Dried wakame is another type of seaweed. All of these ingredients can be found at a good Japanese market, or even a more general Asian market.


1 2″ x 4″ piece of kombu
1 quart cold water
2 tablespoons dried bonito flakes

1. Soak the kombu in the cold water for at least 30 minutes, and up to 3 hours.
2. Place the pot over high heat, and remove the kombu just as the water comes to a boil.
3. Add the dried bonito flakes to the pot, bring it back to a boil, and then remove the pot from the heat.
4. Allow the stock to stand until the flakes sink to the bottom of the pot when stirred gently, at least 5 minutes.
5. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve into a clean glass jar. Allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze up to 1 week.

Miso Soup with Dried Shiitake Mushrooms


1 quart kombu dashi
2 dried shiitake mushroom caps
1 tablespoon dried wakame
2 scallions
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
pinch of Kosher salt and a splash of sake (optional)
3 tablespoons shiro miso paste

1. Soak the dried shiitake mushroom caps in the kombu dashi for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 hours.
2. Meanwhile soak the dried wakame in cold tap water to cover for 3 minutes. Strain the wakame promptly. If the wakame is not already in slivered pieces, chop it now and add it to 4 individual soup bowls.
3. Slice the scallions thinly and add them to the individual soup bowls.
4. Strain the mushroom caps, reserving the stock, and slice them into bite-sized pieces, most likely 6 – 8 per cap.
5. In a medium saucepan (large enough to hold the stock eventually), heat the sesame oil over high heat. Add the mushroom caps and sear them briefly. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and deglaze the pan with a splash of sake. (If you don’t have sake on hand, water or a bit of the stock will work fine here.) Add the stock and bring it to a simmer.
6. Add the miso, whisking to dissolve. Do not allow the soup to boil at this point. As soon as the miso is dissolved, ladle it over the wakame and scallions into the soup bowls. Divide the mushrooms evenly between the bowls.

Here are some more Japanese recipes for you to try:



Debbie @ Easy Natural Food January 24, 2012 at 9:29 pm

This looks so unbelievably tasty, my husband and I love soups like this. I have plenty of kombu at home, just need to get the bonito flakes! Thanks for sharing this with Sunday Night Soup Night, look forward to seeing you again soon!

Debbie @ Easy Natural Food January 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I just tweeted this soup as one of my favorites from Sunday Night Soup Night! Thanks for linking up and hope to see you again soon :)

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