My favourite flavour is the one of the dashi stock. Dashi is made from bonito flakes and Japanese kelp, two very simple ingredients that are often the base of Japanese cooking. When I was a child, in the morning, every morning when I woke up that was the first thing that I always smelt, so it really feeds into my childhood memories.
It’s a very simple ingredient that is integral to the Japanese cooking philosophy, it’s such a simple, delicate ingredient which requires a lot of precision to make, and for me is one of the key components of Japanese cooking. We have so many dishes in Japanese cuisine that use this Japanese stock.
Dashi stock is all about bringing umami to the dish, a combination of the glutamic acid from the kombu and inosinic acid from the bonito flake – these react together to create this synergic effect which makes an umami flavour which is ten times in strength. This isn’t just used in Japanese cuisine but also in European cuisine, where tomato is often used instead of kombu to create the glycogenic acid and seafood is used for the inosinic acid. With the knowledge of the components that make this Dashi so delicious, different cultures are then able to create this stock in their own way.
Personally, sometimes I even add kombu to sun-dried tomatoes to expand the flavour, or even dried mushrooms such as porcini to create a deep flavour and a vegetarian or vegan stock, a common process for me.
In my restaurant, I am very intentional and specific with temperatures and time to extract umami out of each separate ingredient o achieve the best results. Although my food also contains a lot of Western influences, the use of Dashi in my cooking is still extremely important for me as it builds the foundation of my cooking.