Dashi is a primary seafood based stock usually made from Kombu (kelp), Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), iriko/niboshi (sardine) or a combination of all or two of them. The bonito soup stock is the most important flavor for Japanese food and it’s used in many different dishes, such as miso soup, noodle soup, donburi (rice bowl), chawanmushi (savory egg custard), simmered dishes and more. I do not recommend to substitute with any other stocks because you lose the “Japanese” flavor with the dish you are making.
There are 3 ways to make dashi stock and here are the ingredient(s) you will need for each method. See How To Make Dashi for the recipe.
1. Dashi Packet (My Daily Method)
Yamaki Dashi Packet (Buy from Amazon)
You can also purchase Dashi Packet online from this store which ships internationally.
Read this post to see how to use dashi packet to make dashi.
2. Instant Dashi Powder
It is the quickest way to make dashi, and instead of liquid form, you can make “dashi flavor” by adding the dashi powders to the dish. If you only make a small dish or need a little bit of dashi flavor in your cooking, this can be convenient. It’s still not easy to find MSG-Free dashi packages outside of Japan, but they are more common in Japan. See How To Make Dashi to see how you use the dashi powder.
MSG-free Dashi Powder:
The well-known “Hondashi” is just the name of Ajinomoto’s brand, not the ingredient name.
3. Traditional Way, Making From Scratch
This is the most authentic way, and it might be a little more time consuming, but it is definitely not difficult to make. You will need one of or both ingredients below. See How To Make Dashi for the recipes.
Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes):
4. Shiro Dashi
These are convenient bottles of concentrated dashi made with kombu, katsuoboshi, sake, salt, sugar and MSG/preservatives. If you need just a little dashi in your cooking, this dashi bottle is easy and quick to use. Since it’s concentrated, it can be used as “seasoning” to add more umami flavors.
However, I still recommend making homemade dashi (You can keep for one week in the refrigerator and use the rest for miso soup when you don’t need anymore) and adjust your dishes with sake, salt, and sugar individually.