The Allure of “Dashi Culture” Rooted in People’s Living
The Dashi Culture Project produces videos based on interviews and case studies of various people, in the hopes of examining and passing on the dietary culture of the Kansai region as well as the “dashi culture,” the foundation of Japanese dietary culture.
The Embarrassing Cooking book was published by Seikosha, a bookstore in Kyoto. The author Iko Kajitani and editor Atsushi Horibe discuss the joy and freedom in home cooking. Tastes unique to homemade food and the differences are revealed in this book.
Lovable home cooking, named “embarrassing cooking”
“There is nothing to see” is actually full of archive-worthy episodes and particular preferences. What we should love is unnamed home cooking?!
Founded in Shiga Prefecture and now based in Kyoto, Uneno is a katsuo (bonito) dashi professional with over 100 years of history. Although never placed at the front stage, dashi supports cooking behind the scenes. In order to maximize this mild ability of dashi, the company has been producing “real” flavor that complements our dishes, while placing a particular focus on the production areas and the processing method.
Toba-style old-fashioned method that maximizes the virtue of the ingredients
In an era of mass production, Uneno’s katsuobushi (dried bonito) is manually shaved by using steel blades. It takes 10 years to master the even alignment of the 12 steel blades with 0.1 mm accuracy. The blades require removal for sharpening after shaving every 60 katsuobushi pieces. The dashi flavor and aroma, and deep taste are produced by taking time and effort for processing.We asked the secret of katsuobushi that produces delicious real dashi.
Her title is Culinary Dashi Creator. Chie became familiarized with dashi in her childhood and conveys the attractiveness of dashi through cooking classes and food education at schools. Using three types of dashi, she makes a wide variety of soups. In particular, her minestrone, cooked with a westernized version of dashi, is truly amazing. The potentials for dashi are drawn out while taking into account the balance of nutrition and five tastes.
A variety of soups full of dashi flavor
Using kombu (kelp) as a foundation and additional varying combinations of katsuobushi and niboshi (iriko, dried sardines), Chie demonstrates dashi techniques for different menus and ages. In addition to the basic “dashi for adults” and the more luxurious “probably best dashi in Japan,” she also makes a Western-style soup, minestrone, with a combination of two types of dashi. She warns against today’s fast food culture, and explains the relationship between the Japanese climate and dashi.
Taking paternity leave for the first time at age 50! Shigeki Hattori, an active creative director at the forefront, challenges himself to cook as a new househusband. Using his homemade dashi, he carefully cooks dishes including dashimaki (rolled Japanese-style omelet) and baby food for his beloved family. What does he mean by “A cooking routine that involves dashi makes tomorrow more delicious!”!?
Expanding the possibilities of dashi by accumulating everyday experiences and intuition
Kombu dashi, salt and eggs. That's it. With the pronouncement that “learning the basic, you can arrange it by adding extras,” he demonstrates creative thinking in the kitchen, including his signature dashimaki, simmered dishes for both adults and children, and modified nyumen dishes. He examines the future possibilities of dashi culture, based on insight gained through teaching at universities and traveling all over Japan.
It is no exaggeration to say that kombu (kelp) is the foundation of Osaka cuisine. The store owner of a long-established kombu store in Osaka, which has been in business for more than 110 years, will share the history of kombu dashi stock, ways to use it, and the issues it faces today. Please join us to witness the efforts and approach to the future of the fourth-generation owner who has been addressing critical issues.
The Future of Kombu Foretold by Konbu Doi, a Long-established Kombu Store in Osaka
In the face of a sharp decline in the harvest of natural makombu, which is almost a crisis for Osaka’s food culture, what should we preserve, and what should be changed? With these thoughts in mind, the store owner talks about the importance of sharing the problems with people in different fields for solutions. What is his intent?
Hiuchi-nada, located in the Seto Inland Sea near the border between Kagawa and Ehime Prefectures, has been a prosperous fishing ground since ancient times. Above all, the area around Ibuki Island is a source of high quality iriko (dried sardines). Yamakuni is a company that has run an iriko business for over 100 years in this area. The company’s 5th president, Kanayo Yamashita, and others have been providing information on the possibilities of iriko dashi, which has been a natural part of their lives.
Eliminating preconceptions and understanding the potentials of iriko
Purchasing only the freshest iriko that meet the company’s strict standards, each fish is manually sorted, and the head and internal organs are removed. Yamakuni sticks to direct “person to person” distribution without going through distributors. It holds workshops in various places to convey the real taste of iriko, taking a food education approach. We asked about the requirements of delicious iriko, an easy way to make dashi, and things that are only possible with iriko dashi.
Professor Taku Iida at National Museum of Ethnology has been studying fishermen and their living, and kombu harvesting. Starting with such roots as “Why on earth did Japanese people have an eye on kombu?”, he has been exploring fishermen’s living and fishing techniques etc.; how and when did kombu become a big influencer in Japanese food culture? You can find out about the history here.
Does it taste better with knowing its history? The beginning of kombu and how to harvest it; a story of fishermen
Before the Edo period, kombu was full of mystery. How did such full-of-mystery kombu become harvest-able, and widely spread? Once again, by looking into the history, the taste of today’s miso soup might change too.