Dashi, the stock at the heart of all Japanese cooking, should taste of the sea. It is simple to make as there are only three ingredients:
- 1 oz. wide-cut konbu
- 4 1⁄4 cups cold water
- 4 cups dried bonito flakes
The trick—when preparing ichiban-dashi, to be used as a clear soup—is in keeping the stock and the konbu (dried kelp) in it below a boil. Wipe any dirt off 1 oz. wide-cut konbu. Place konbu in a medium saucepan with 4 cups cold water. Heat over medium-high heat until water just begins to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook—without allowing stock to come to a full simmer—until konbu is soft, about 2 minutes.
Remove konbu and reserve for niban-dashi (see Niban-Dashi recipe). Increase heat to medium-high and bring stock to a full boil. Add 1⁄4 cup cold water to lower temperature of stock, then add 4 cups dried bonito flakes. Do not stir. Return to a boil, then immediately remove pot from heat. (If bonito flakes boil more than a few seconds, flavor will be too strong.) Allow bonito flakes to settle, skim foam, then carefully pour stock through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Reserve bonito flakes for niban-dashi. Use stock immediately.