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What is Hon Dashi?

26 May

Do you ever get the feeling that chefs leave out their secret ingredients when they publish their recipes? Or perhaps you bought the cookbook at the restaurant but even when you follow the recipes exactly, they come out short of what you tasted at the restaurant? I would hazard to say that it is not so much that the ingredient is secret. Rather, its probably just hard to come by. Hon Dashi is one of those inconvenient ingredients, since its not widely available outside of Asia. In my own recipes, I will usually just insert something generic like chicken stock cube even when I would actually be using Hon Dashi pellets.

Well enough of that.  I guess I’d better explain what ‘Dashi’ is first. Dashi is a primary stock usually made from kelp (Konbu) and skipjack tuna flakes (Bonito). It is used everywhere in Japanese cooking, and you can think of Dashi as the equivalent of bouillon in classical Western cooking. How the stock is prepared is not crucial for our purposes, as all you need to know is you can make Dashi yourself by simply adding Hon-Dashi pellets to hot water.

this scallop version is harder to find but works better as a generic seafood stock

‘Hon’ by the way means ‘the real thing’, which I believe is a well deserved prefix. In addition to having a salty taste as one would expect from stock, Hon Dashi boasts a unique sweet and mildly smoky undertone. You can practically use it in any recipe which calls for chicken or vegetable stock since it isn’t fishy. In fact it doesn’t even taste of  fish. There is also a newer variety of Hon Dashi made from dried scallops (conpoy) instead of bonito and it merits mention here. This scallop version has an intense shellfish flavour which is perfect for enhancing seafood dishes like Bouillabaisse and Seafood Risotto.

In my humble opinion, stock made from Hon Dashi is superior to any other type of instant stock that I have come across. Why does Hon Dashi have such a wonderful taste? I think it’s because of the double desiccation used in its manufacture. This is how I imagine it must be made: The key ingredients (i.e. the tuna or scallops) are first salt dried once over a long period, then rehydrated in boiling water to form a bullion. The solids are finally removed and the liquid is then re-dehydrated into pellets. This process extracts and removes the fishiness that sets in quickly when seafood is harvested, leaving a natural sweetness that is otherwise hard to isolate.

If you have the opportunity, do try using Hon Dashi stock in your cooking. Its perfect for making soups (check out my Consommé page). You can actually use it even if no stock is called for, as they come in small pellets instead of cubes. Try sprinkling on a pinch in place of salt. Either way, you will be adding that special hint of a flavour that will keep your dinner guests guessing as to what your secret ingredient is.

Notes

  • No, I do not own any Ajinomoto shares (manufacturer of Hon Dashi) or have any other ulterior motive for recommending this stock – pun unintended.
  •  If you can’t find Hon Dashi, I have been told it is available at Amazon.com, in the grocery section.
  • Keep your openned sachets in the fridge.
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35 Comments

Posted by on May 26, 2010 in Ingredients, Japanese, Seafood, Soups

 

Tags: , , , ,

35 responses to “What is Hon Dashi?

  1. Jean

    September 15, 2010 at 2:59 am

    Can you tell me the proportions to mix hon dashi with water… for example, to use to make yudofu or shabu shabu? thank you

     
  2. kobayash1

    September 17, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Start off with one tea(edited from table) spoon for every cup of water. You can always add more after tasting. It really depends if you are putting (and I recommend that you do) any other ingredients into your Shabu Shabu stock.

    Also, I’d like to take the opportunity to mention that very nice japanese stock is sold in liquid form nowadays, in metallic pouches. I’m quite partial to soymilk shabu shabu stock myself.

    I hope that helped.

     
    • Momo

      October 24, 2010 at 9:27 am

      I believe it should be one teaspoon for every cup of water??

       
      • kobayash1

        October 24, 2010 at 11:06 pm

        Well, perhaps a flat T-spoon or a heaped t-spoon. Because HD comes in granules, its not nearly as concentrated as chicken powder or stock cubes.

         
    • Patti O.

      January 25, 2014 at 8:22 am

      Kobayashi-san, Momo is correct. 1 Tablespoon of Hon Dashi is way too much making it extremely salty. The bottled Hon Dashi used to say 1 tsp. per 3 cups of water. Notice the ingredient lists salt as the first ingredient. I have a new bottle of Hon Dashi and it doesn’t list what to do with Hon Dashi. The old bottles used to give examples and told you how much water was to be used. The Ajinomoto site is absolutely no help—no recipes, no amounts.

       
      • kobayash1

        January 27, 2014 at 5:08 pm

        I understand what you mean. The key issue here is what the hon dashi is being used for. To me, stock used for cooking is supposed to be concentrated and salty. For example, when you purchase ready made chicken stock, it is quite salty. In my recent chawanmushi recipe the ratio used is 1 heaping table spoon of hon dashi with 1.75 cups of water.

        If however you are drinking the dashi directly, then it should definitely be more diluted, so 1 tablespoon is too much. In any case I have edited my original post to 1 teaspoon of pellets per cup of water. I honestly think 1 teaspoon per 3 cups of water is quite tasteless, maybe its just personal preference.

        http://kobikitchen.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/chawanmushi-japanese-steamed-egg/

         
  3. Sue

    September 27, 2010 at 11:22 am

    The second ingredient in Hon-Dashi is MSG! That’s why it tastes so good. See how you feel after you’ve consumed a bowl full of the soup.

     
  4. Jennifer

    October 27, 2010 at 10:00 am

    So I have a question, Hon Dashi included tuna, but in a lot of the recipes I’ve seen, like Hitsumabushi they use Kombu and Bonita flakes to make the dashi stock. So is Hon Dashi something you can use in place of the Kombu/Bonita Dashi stock?

     
    • kobayash1

      October 28, 2010 at 10:36 am

      Well yes and no.

      The dashi you are referring to is called Konbu Dashi, which is the most common form of dashi. In an ideal situation, I’d still add konbu(i.e. kelp) to Hon Dashi.

      However, you should note that the purpose of the konbu is to provide the umami (i.e. MSG effect) for the dashi. As mentioned in one of the other posts, MSG is already present in Hon Dashi so the kelp isn’t essential in that sense.

      To sum up, if you are drinking the konbu dashi straight, then its better to use kelp. If the konbu dashi is just an intermediate ingredient for something else, you’ll be ok skipping the kelp.

       
      • Jennifer

        October 30, 2010 at 6:06 am

        Thanks for the advice! I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my question =)

         
      • Jennifer Bauters

        April 29, 2011 at 12:08 pm

        Here is another question for you, I hope you don’t mind. I’m planning to make Yaki Gyoza, and the reciepe i’m using calls for MSG (Ajinomoto) to be used. Could I just use Hon Dashi and it produce the same effect?

         
  5. kobayash1

    April 29, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Gyoza is pan fried (i.e. Yaki) in oil to make parts of it crispy and then a certain amount of stock is used as a deglaze. If you are referring to MSG meant for the stock, yes you can just use Hon Dashi (+water).

    If the MSG is meant for the filling, you can just use plain salt instead. Depending on the degree of your aversion to MSG, you can also consider a compromise solution, the MSG flavoured salt called Aji-Shio.

     
  6. Justine

    May 27, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Thanks for this post. I’m trying my first yudofu ever and I hope that hondashi will do!

     
  7. Griffin

    February 18, 2012 at 7:40 am

    I have a recipe that calls for 2 tablespoons of Hon Dashi. Do you think this means I should use 2 tablespoons of powdered hon dashi or 2 tablespoons of hon dashi liquid that has been made with the powder?

     
    • kobayash1

      February 27, 2012 at 3:04 am

      Hon is the brand. If the recipe were to use something like Konbu Dashi or Shiitake Dashi, then it is the liquid. If it refers to Hon Dashi, then it should be the powder.

      You can also verify by quantity. If you are adding the Hon Dashi to some thing that is one or more cups in volume, then the powder is likely. In anycase, 2 tablespoons of the liquid would only require 1/8 tea spoon of the powder, so I think this is highly unlikely.

       
      • Griffin Tamura

        February 27, 2012 at 3:08 am

        Thanks for the info! This recipe is for fried rice. I’m going to try to make it with 2 tablespoons of the powder. Thanks again!

         
      • kobayash1

        February 27, 2012 at 7:13 pm

        That sounds right. I’d suggest you not add the 2 tablespoons at once and try for taste after adding one first.
        Don’t forget to allow your rice to dry up first for best results…

         
  8. Paul Balluff

    May 30, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Interesting post!
    But now I wonder: what is katsuodashi (かつおだし) then?
    Or what’s the difference between Hon Dashi and Katsuodashi?
    Thanks you!

     
    • kobayash1

      May 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      The answer is Hon Dashi has the flavour of kelp (kombu) in addition to tuna (bonito) flakes. Katsuo dashi is made from just bonito flakes. Similarly there are also dashis made from boiling kelp without the bonito.

      To be exact, Hon is just a brand identifier for ajinomoto’s instant dashi, you know ‘Quaker’ in Quaker Oats. Its standard dashi that is made from kep and bonito flakes.

       
  9. Becca R

    June 2, 2012 at 4:35 am

    This has been very informative, thankyou very much:)

     
  10. Josh

    September 19, 2012 at 2:45 am

    I am making Miso. Can I make the Hon Dashi ahead of time, (meaning mix the pellets and water to make the broth), and then refrigerate it until I am ready to reheat and add the tofu, miso, scallions, etc.?

     
    • kobayash1

      September 20, 2012 at 1:09 am

      You could, although I don’t see any advantage to doing this unless you were planning to simmer some extra ingredients in your stock. Hon Dashi is instant so you could just as easily add it at the same time as all your other ingredients. Please keep in mind that both Miso and Hon Dashi are salty, so don’t use too much of either.

       
  11. "The Sarge"

    March 30, 2013 at 1:24 am

    My wife who is Korean always uses Hon Dashi when making me Kimchi Chige which I love to eat!

     
  12. malou

    July 25, 2013 at 11:23 am

    hi can i use this hondashi for gyudon or oden? is this the alternative way of making a dashi stock? pls help…tnx

     
    • kobayash1

      July 27, 2013 at 2:17 am

      Yes you can use hon dashi for almost any Japanese dish which requires stock. Its made from fish but it doesn’t taste of fish so its quite versatile. You can modify it by adding fresh clams, kelp etc. depending on your situation.

      The traditional way of making dashi requires you to get a block of dried skipjack tuna. It will be much harder to find.

       
      • Mary

        November 27, 2013 at 3:51 am

        Hi, so if they ask for dashi shoyu in a recipe, I can just replace exact amount of hondashi pellets dissolved in water? Say agadashi tofu recipe?

         
      • kobayash1

        November 28, 2013 at 5:08 pm

        If I’m not mistaken, dashi shoyu would contain soya sauce as well and probably sugar. Hon Dashi would only give you the dashi part of the agadashi tofu sauce.

         
  13. Marie

    December 16, 2013 at 6:31 am

    Hi – i have just opened a packet of Hon Dashi and wonder how long it keeps. I assume it should be stored in an air tight container? Thanks in advance

     
    • kobayash1

      December 17, 2013 at 12:03 am

      I fold over the top twice and put a paper clip to seal it, then keep it in the fridge. It lasts indefinitely (almost) this way.

       
  14. foodlover

    February 25, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Hi- I’d like to know, could I use Hon Dashi for udon noodles? I got the frozen udons from the supermaket that don’t come with the sauces. Could I use the Hon Dashi to make the soup for the udon? If not, what is ur recommendation? If yes, should I buy the power or liquid form? Thx.

     
    • kobayash1

      March 6, 2014 at 12:28 am

      Technically yes you could but hon dashi is best used just to form the soup base, it is like a stock cube, it has only one dimension. I recommend you add other ingredients to further flavour your soup, such as chopped scallion, fried garlic, bits of meat, dried sea weed etc. refer to my ramen page for more details.

       
  15. foodlover

    February 25, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Hi- what about the ODEN NO MOTO powder? Could that be used to make the soup for the frozen udon noodles? Thx in advance.

     
  16. andre

    March 2, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    does hon dashi contain flavor enhancer? im worried because many of soup stocks adds flavour enhancer as in MSG to make food instantly strong taste but not so good for health

     
    • kobayash1

      March 6, 2014 at 12:30 am

      please refer to the post above dated – September 29, 2010 at 3:01 pm

       

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