Taiyo Foods in Sunnyside, Queens – The inspiration for dashi making time

During our Saturday outing yesterday (which was HOT – it was over 90 degrees F outside here in New York City!), we went to Sunnyside, Queens. We had some Bolivian and Mexican food, along with some interesting pastries and coffee. One new place we went to was Taiyo Foods, which was actually a staple of the Sunnyside area. A few years ago, their original location had to close due to a fire, but luckily enough, with the support of a Kickstarter and a lot of loyal customers, they were able to reopen and renovate at a new spot just a few blocks away. I got reminded while perusing the aisles here that one thing I did want to do this year was to finally make my own dashi with dried kombu seaweed and bonito flakes. For the longest time, I researched quality of kombu and bonito and felt very confused, as I wasn’t sure how to judge quality and why the price points where so high vs. low. But while at Taiyo, I figured I would just buy the basic, seemingly affordable versions of both and see how they turned out.

The process of making dashi is quite simple, assuming you are not growing/harvesting your own kombu seaweed or drying and shaving your own bonito fish. In a nutshell, this how to make dashi, the basis of all Japanese cooking: you take a pot of water (about two liters) with 30 grams of kombu (wiped, not rinsed!), and bring both to a near simmer — you want to see bubbles appear in the water. Then, you immediately shut the heat off and add 30 grams of bonito flakes. Cover the pot and let the bonito flakes steep for five minutes. Then, strain the liquid, and there you have it: your own fresh, homemade dashi! This would be called ichiban dashi because it is “first brew” dashi. You can choose to do another steep with the same process, same amount of new water, and the same kombu piece and bonito flakes; this will yield niban dashi, or second brew dashi. It will be weaker than the first brew, but still tasty in dishes where a strong dashi is not the first flavor you get.

As long as you have kombu and bonito flakes (plus a pot, access to clean water, and a stovetop), you can have homemade dashi in the time it takes to (nearly) boil water, plus five additional minutes (to steep the bonito). After making ichiban dashi and niban dashi, I was really blown away by how quick and easy the entire process was, plus how fresh and sea-like the stock tasted. This afternoon, I used part of it to make homemade miso soup, and will be using the rest to make oyakodon and freezing some cubes for future cooking. It’s funny how doing something so quick and easy can make you feel so accomplished. I got so many comments on these Instagram Stories I did on this about how impressive it was that I did this, but it was really easy, and not that expensive, either!

When I originally thought about making dashi from scratch, and regularly, about a year ago, it was really for Kaia’s sake because she’s definitely a soup baby. Since her very first soup experience when she was about 8-9 months old (it was a Cuban black bean soup!), she’s always loved her liquidy soups and her thicker bean-based soups. Dashi would be an easy base for soups for her. And she definitely gobbled up all this miso soup today, much to my delight. She happily ate all the wakame seaweed I added, which was no surprise since she adores seaweed. Plus, for the very first time since she was a baby, Pookster even devoured all the silken tofu cubes and kept asking for more. As a toddler, she’s been rejecting soft tofu in favor of firm or extra firm tofu. Tonight, she ended up having three generous helpings of tofu and seaweed miso soup. I had to add more silken tofu to the soup just to appease her and her belly!

Well, that does it: dashi is going to be on rotation in our household now. And I’ll also need to find some other creative ways to incorporate dashi into our diet.

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