kombu dashi

Kombu is a seaweed widely used in Japanese cooking. It is high in glutamic acid which is the original source of MSG. It is the origin of the concept and the word umami. Both the word umami and MSG were invented by the same guy who made quite a lot of ¥ off the whole MSG thing, containing as it does a lot of umami and its ability to enhance the flavors of other foods and to impart its own umami. Is that circular, or what?

Kombu is one of the three main ingredients in the preparation of dashi, a seafood flavored soup stock used as the base for hundreds of other dishes. Fine, a whole lot of other dishes. A piece of kombu is broken off and wiped clean before being added to water. It's not actually boiled, rather, the water is brought to a boil and the kombu steeps for about 10 minutes or so, possibly simmering, then removed. It swells and becomes flexible. At that point it can be cut into strips and added back to dish. It can also be pickled or added to salads. It has a pleasantly dense but not rubbery texture that is resistant to the bite. It's prepared similar to tea.

Bonito is a skipjack tuna that is dried then shaved into flakes. It too is added to the water, imparts its flavor, then is strained out. Or not. You can eat it if you don't mind the little flakes floating around. Some powdered bonito dissolves entirely.

I'm experimenting here with dried anchovies. They are roughly chopped and added along with the bonito. Strained them out with the bonito. Didn't notice much effect at all. Next time I'll use more and let them steep longer. Frankly, I'm not sure what they're intended for or how to use them.

The rest of the ingredients are easily recognizable.

Not pictured: soy sauce, saki, mirin, the three standard things.

The noodles are a cellophane rice noodle.

Not used: chile flakes, curries, or any of the other usual suspects.


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