What is Dashi?
Dashi is a Japanese stock made from konbu, dried shiitake mushrooms and water. Many cooks describe dashi as something that adds flavor and an additional dimension to whatever recipe they’re preparing. Whether you’re making miso soup, dipping sauces and marinades, or seasoning your rice, it’s important to have a good quality dashi on hand.
Konbu seaweed is not only used in making excellent dashi stock, but it’s a very versatile ingredient as well. Konbu seaweed gives a delicate taste and is valued as a nutritious ingredient. Here we’re discussing dashi as well as the alternative to the dashi stock that’s just as easy to make.
Miso soup is made with a blend of dashi stock, miso paste, and several kinds of condiments of your choice.
Dashi is liquid extracted from kombu (dried kelp) and katsuobushi (smoked bonito flakes). It’s the main ingriedient in miso soup and it’s the key. So, what’s the proper substitute for dashi in miso soup?
The best substitute in my opinion is Udo (also known as Udo or Okaka is the Japanese name for the herbaceous plant Aralia cordata). It’s a root vegetable, commonly known as the Sea or Smooth Bamboo Shoot, which is believed to have diuretic properties.
According to Apiyo Japanese Kitchen, per 100ml of dashi, you need 15g (with the skin) of the Udo root. This means that the do-it-yourself version of Miso Soup will be much healthier.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Soak 15g (with the skin) of Udo in cold water
- Boil water in a pan
After the water boils, throw away the water you used to soak the Udo.
Substitute 1: Homemade Awase Dashi
For home-style miso soup, you can replace the dashi with homemade awase dashi (miso fish stock):
Bring about 10cm of water to a boil. Boil fish, mitsuba, leeks, carrots, and any other wild (or fresh) vegetables you’d like to include in your dashi. For a stronger dashi flavor you can add dried shiitake mushrooms and kombu at this stage. When the vegetables are almost cooked, add the katsuobushi (smoked bonito flakes). Cover and turn off the heat. When the mixture has cooled down, remove the lid and add miso paste.
Substitute 2: Homemade Fish Stock (Fumet)
I have to confess. I do have miso soup every time I eat at a sushi restaurant or at home. Sometimes, I finished 2 bowls for one meal. After the soup, I feel so full and yet, I am looking for some more food. I would like to have it, but I don’t have to. In fact, I do try to avoid it for a week or two and switch to more healthy and natural soups after that.
As I was looking for some alternatives to make miso soup, I ran into a fabulous no-broth veggie miso soup recipe which I revised a few times and this is what I came out with. You can find this recipe in my latest book, “No Broth, No Bull: Healthy Vegan Dishes from Japanese Kitchens” It is called “EasyVeggie Miso Soup”.
Let’s take this recipe and find out some alternatives to miso soup. I’ll share the broth alternatives I know so that you can choose better food for your health.
Substitute 3: Homemade Shellfish Stock
Ankimo (前粉) or monkfish liver paste is a traditional Japanese ingredient. Because it's a delicacy, not many households in Japan make it at home. It is mostly eaten by the older generations, and because of that, it is often found in traditional Japanese cuisine, and most restaurants have it on their menu.
Monkfish Liver Paste is a great ingredient for those looking to make an umami-rich broth, and it can be substituted for Dashi in miso soup.
To make monkfish liver paste, the monkfish liver is boiled in plenty of water for 15-20 minutes. The water is discarded, the liver is cleaned and chopped into small pieces, and placed in a saucepan. Some vegetables such as carrot, onion and kelp are also added. The saucepan is filled with water so that it covers the liver.
After the liquid comes to a boil, the heat is turned down so that the liquid is just simmering. As it simmers, the liquid is skimmed and the foam created is discarded. Simmering times vary depending on how firm the liver paste will be.
This monkfish liver paste will last for around 5 to 10 days in the refrigerator.
The firmness of the monkfish liver paste can be altered by adjusting the cooking time. The longer it simmers, the firmer it becomes.
Substitute 4: Homemade Kombu Dashi and Shiitake Dashi (Vegan)
Here's how to make a vegan (Shiitake) dashi at home:
Place 1/2" of shiitake mushroom caps in a pot and fill it up with water to simmer
Add 1 tsp. of kombu (dried kelp)
Bring to boil, strain and use as base for miso soup, dashi or add directly to cooking to taste.
Add sliced shiitakes to your miso soup to create Shiitake Dashi.
Substitute 5: Soy Sauce
With Fish Sauce or Fish Paste.
Just take 1 teaspoon of Fish Sauce per 1 cup of water or add 1 teaspoon of Fish Paste.
A little Fish Sauce or Fish Paste will give your miso soup the right umami flavor!
Substitute 6: Monosodium Glutamate (MSG )
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is the secret ingredient that makes ramen taste like it does and it also can be a useful substitute for dashi. If you plan to make a ramen dish, do your research first. Some recipes call for a variation on this and other stocks.
Some restaurants use dehydrated MSG in powders, which can be added to the miso paste for an instant dashi. Look for the tiny yellow packets and sprinkle them into your mix.
Be careful when using MSG, as it can be quite tricky to use with certain ingredients. While MSG can stand in for dashi in most recipes, you may find that it can be tricky for recipes that bring out the delicate taste of simple ingredients.
Substitute 7: Chicken Broth
A lot of the recipes that use dashi as an ingredient have a catch. Many of them use the dashi straight up, meaning that you use 1 cup of dashi in the recipe, as is. But adding in this much extra liquid would change the overall flavor of the dish and wouldn’t hold up well as an ingredient.
So, what can you do if you don’t have dashi on hand? You can use a dashi substitute or just use powdered miso instead. Instead of adding the dashi, substitute with chicken broth. Although it’s not the same, it’s similar enough and will work as a dashi substitute in Japanese recipes.
To substitute dashi with chicken broth:
Sauté the ingredients as you originally would for the recipe. Once the onion is translucent, add in a cup of chicken broth, and cook down for at least 20 minutes. At this point, it should have a similar consistency to the broth that is made from dashi.