Sunday, February 22, 2009
Vegan Dashi Soup Stock
During winter, I make a Japanese udon noodle soup once a week, usually on Mondays. It's a nourishing meal that's simple to make.
Dashi is the soup stock used to make udon noodle soup. Dashi is also used to make dipping sauces for cold noodles, such as soba (buckwheat noodles). Traditional dashi consists of water, kombu (dried kelp) and bonito (dried fish) flakes. The specific steps for making this dashi may be found on the internet. You can also purchase instant dashi stock in powder form or in concentrated liquid form. My mother had a huge box of instant dashi powder - about the size of a box of Tide, I kid you not! - in her kitchen. Be aware, though, that virtually all such instant dashi contain significant amounts of monosodium glutamate (MSG), and all instant dashi contain bonito.
After adopting vegetarianism, I tried making vegan dashi by simply omitting the bonito and heating the water with a small piece of kombu. The result was a dashi that was too weak. I tried using larger pieces of kombu and even pre-soaked the kombu in the water for 30 minutes to an hour before heating it. The dashi was still too weak. Then I came across a blog called Just Hungry, whose author recommended pre-soaking the piece of kombu in the water overnight before heating it. I tried it, and the resulting dashi was perfectly balanced.
Nowadays, I prepare the following vegan dashi in the morning before leaving work for use later in the evening. It's so easy. Also, vegan dashi is budget friendly, in that a package of kombu containing several pieces costs about $3.
Makes just under 8 cups
8 cups water
1 strip (approximately 8 inches by 5 inches) of kombu (see main photo above)
dried shitake mushroom pieces (optional)
Wipe the kombu with a damp cloth to remove any white powder and immerse it in water for several hours in your refrigerator. When ready to use, slowly bring the water to a roiling boil and remove the kombu. That's it!
For a slightly stronger stock, which is my personal preference, toss a small handful (approximately 1/3 - 1/2 cup) of shitake mushroom pieces into the water before heating it. (See photo above.) You may opt to remove the shitake depending on the kind of dish you're making.
Note: Dried shitake mushroom pieces may be found at Whole Foods grocery store. Kombu will probably have to be purchased at an Asian grocery store or online.