When pieces of bonito or skipjack tuna are dried, fermented, smoked and thinly sliced, the resulting product is called bonito flakes. Dashi is a simple stock made from bonito flakes and kombu, an edible seaweed used extensively in Japanese cooking. Dashi granules are a commercial product that dissolve in hot water, forming an instant stock. Although dashi granules can substitute for bonito flakes and kombu, bonito flakes cannot substitute for dashi granules in all culinary applications.
History of Dashi
Dashi originated in Japan early in the country's culinary history. Although various types of dashi exist, standard dashi consists of kombu and bonito flakes steeped in water. Variations on dashi include additions or substitutions of shitake mushrooms or other fish. In the last hundred years and with the rise of industrial food, use of instant dashi granules generally replaced traditional dashi, both in the United States and Japan.
Culinary Uses for Bonito Flakes
In addition to its obvious use in dashi, the umami imparted by bonito flakes can also be used in other culinary contexts. Add bonito flakes to sauces, most notably ponzu sauce. Similarly, bonito flakes are a welcome addition to any dish involving soup or stock to impart additional umami flavor without overpowering the other flavors. When sprinkled on hot food, bonito flakes appear to shimmer, adding an attractive visual element to the dish.
Culinary Uses for Dashi Granules
Dashi granules are used with increasing frequency in both the United States and Japan as an instant soup base. Stock made from dashi granules often has a stronger, less delicate flavor compared to the traditional version. Dashi granules can be added to any stock, Japanese or any other kind, for extra flavor, umami and depth. Use of dashi granules does not extend further than rehydration in water as a substitute for dashi.
Frequenly, dashi is mixed with other flavorings to create the final dish. Common flavorings include soy sauce, mirin, miso and salt. Depending on the type of dish and other flavors added to the dish, the strength and one-dimensional flavor of dashi granules may not be noticeable. The characteristics of dashi granules vary by brand.
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