Dashi is a very mild fish broth, the basis of a lot of Japanese cooking. Where a westerner would naturally assume ‘beef’ if you just said ‘broth’, a Japanese would assume ‘dashi’.
There are many recipes and discussions on the best way to make dashi. It’s essentially dried tuna and seaweed, steeped in hot water, in the same way that coq-au-vin is just chicken stew.
There are different kinds of katsuobushi tuna flakes. There are different kinds of kombu seaweed, and it seems to matter how you cook it, which part of the seaweed you use, and where the seaweed came from. I’d call it terrior, but it’s under water.
This isn’t an entry on gourmet dashi, so I’ll just say that cooking instructions vary from dump everything in a pot and boil it to
slice the bonito flakes micro-thin with a razor sharp knife or the edge of a freshly broken wineglass, drop into not quite boiling spring water, remove from heat and draw the kombo through it slowly from right to left.
Or, you can do what 90% of Japanese housewives do, and buy the granulated variety.
That’s a long introduction to a quick meal. One third of a cup of instant oatmeal. Two thirds of a cup of water. One teaspoon of dashi granules (to taste). Boil the water, add to the oatmeal and dashi. Microwave 20sec. Stir and let sit for five minutes.
Taste. Very good. Surprisingly good. Needs salt. The recipe for this brand of dashi granules is one teaspoon for 3-6 cups of water, depending on the intended use (3 for miso, 6 for noodle soup stock). I used about nine times the maximum density, but I think that’s necessary to stand up against the oats. This isn’t one of your delicate Japanese dishes sipped while gazing at cherry blossoms by moonlight. This is the sort of thing you eat after a whole day of unloading sacks of rice from ships.
Tried a bit of soy sauce. Not sure that wasn’t a mistake. Americans tend to use soy sauce like it was ketchup. It’s really more like Worcestershire, and then some. A few drops is enough. I know better, but what I thought was a small amount still tended to overpower the whole plate, and not let any other flavors come through. In future, I’ll have it on the side, and just slide the underside of my spoon through it.