Dashi it is an ingenious discovery, something that was developed over centuries, the essence of Japanese taste by the sea. This post is about dashi broth, used in cooking meat and vegetables, a.k.a. shyabu-shyabu. The picture is the dashi underway, in progress, I added my favourite secret ingredients by volume.
Dashi being the foundation of Japanese cuisine, it is the common denominator between all Japanese. You can manipulate the tastes by varying the degrees of the ingredients, a subtle difference makes the subtle taste change, and each chef has his own signature. Japanese are definitely microprocessors, they think of each micro-step, and divide those steps into more multiple steps, a “slicing of micro” until they have perfected the process.
My view, taste is devised by constructing a comparable and compatible spectrum of tastes; knowing how different foods interact, how temperature influences taste, pressure, time and the extraction of flavours and synergies.
Certainly dashi for someone who is Greek, or Canadian makes little sense, given they are not well equipped to understand the developments in Asian food culture. If you would give a dashi broth to a foreigner (non-Japanese) they would have no reference point, likely find it mute, but just the opposite is true.
The use of sea vegetables is probably one of the most significant factors in developing taste. The Japanese have a wide variety of sea weeds (umami) used in preparing foods, both hot and cold. To make dashi you need Katsubushi, which is disodium insinuate, a flavour enhancer and Konbu, a seaweed known for its natural msg content, Mirin or sake and shoyu.
Now comes the fun part, adding more concentration of flavours by adding other seaweeds or sea ingredients such as iriko or niboshi, small dried fish for more flavour. While each dish has a distinctive taste, it is up to the chef to decide the best taste in the spectrum.
When we taste, it is obvious that we all identify certain tastes over others, and individual taste is perhaps the most important factor in satisfying yourself. The question is, are you a member of the flock or not, can you separate taste from preferences, or are they all the same.
Think about it when you next create a dish, leave aside what you know, search for something new, study nature, and go beyond your horizons – the ultimate dishes are created that way.