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I attempted to make homemade Dashi with kelp stands and bonito flakes. It looks as suggested on multiple Japanese cooking sites but it smells like low tide. Is that how it's suppose to smell?

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This is a little difficult to answer - do you think low tide smells like seaweed and salt and fish? Have you had dashi, or anything containing it? –  Jefromi Mar 24 '12 at 20:26
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1 Answer 1

Since dashi is, after all, made with seaweed and dried fish, it will smell and taste a bit of the sea. If you don't eat or prepare much seafood, this smell might seem quite strong to you; for people, like most Japanese people, who eat fresh seafood five times a week, the smell and taste are subtle.

The other possibility is that you made an error in preparation which caused the stock to become far too fishy. Any of the following can cause this:

  • using very low quality kelp or "instant" bonito
  • using expired/rancid bonito
  • allowing the pot to come to a roiling boil with the kelp and bonito in it
  • forgetting to rinse the kelp first
  • adding too much bonito, especially instant bonito
  • letting the dashi steep much too long

I would suggest that you back off on the quantities of ingredients you are using, let them steep for a shorter time, and make sure the pot doesn't come to a boil. Clearly, whether or not your dashi tastes like it should by Japanese tastes, it's fishy to you.

EDITED TO ADD: also, if you don't eat seafood regularly and are finding even good dashi much too fishy, consider making dashi with konbu and dried shitake mushrooms instead. This is commonly done in Japanese Buddhist vegetarian cuisine and is quite good.

Also, you might go to a good Japanese restaurant and get some kind of clear soup so that you can taste what you're shooting for.

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