For those of us who do not eat fish (or simply hate it, as I do), Japanese cuisine can seem difficult to navigate. Dashi, or bonito fish stock, is found in almost everything, from tofu dishes, to pickles, to the ubiquitous miso soup that is served at every meal.
Luckily, if you are cooking at home, there is an easy way to approximate the flavor of traditional dashi without the fish. Enter konbu, a hearty dried kelp.
Konbu (also spelled kombu) is in fact one of the key ingredients in preparing regular dashi, however by omitting the bonito flakes and ramping up the seaweed, you can make your own vegetarian rendition. Here’s a good guide.
But for the truly lazy of us (me), there is an even easier way. Say hello to powdered konbu stock.
Using powdered konbu is simple: just add a packet to boiling water. I decided to try the miso soup recipe on the back of the package.
Vegetarian Miso Soup
1 packet Konbu Dashi
2 1/2 cups water
5 oz. silken tofu cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 tbs dried wakame seaweed
1 stalk green onion, sliced
1/4 cup miso
1. Boil water, add Konbu Dashi and tofu cubes.
2. Stir in miso and simmer gently.
3. Add wakame and green onion before serving.
The result was a super quick, foolproof vegetarian miso soup. As a fish-hater, I appreciate the mild flavor of konbu. However, if you seek a more oceanic vibe, just add more wakame seaweed to the soup, which is generally more fishy than konbu.
Konbu dashi powder is often hidden amidst the bonito flakes in Japanese grocery stores and can be difficult to find. If it is unavailable, go to the seaweed aisle to buy the unprocessed version, which is also prevalent in Korean stores.