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This week's recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

January 28, 2012 |  6:00 am


This week, Food writer Sonoko Sakai explores dashi, a foundation of Japanese cooking

At the heart of so much of Japanese cooking is the fragrant broth called dashi. And at the heart of dashi are the delicate pink petals of katsuobushi, shaved flakes of dried bonito fish.

When steeped with the dried seaweed called konbu, katsuobushi gives dashi its irresistible aroma and deep umami flavor. Despite being made in minutes, the stock is the foundation of many Japanese dishes — miso soup, salad dressings, sauces for noodles, even meat stews.

"Dashi is like the key actor in a movie," says 83-year-old Chobei Yagi, whose 275-year-old store, Tokyo's Yagicho Honten, specializes in katsuobushi and other dried foods. "But dashi always plays the supporting role, never the star."

This week's recipes include:

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Photo: Nikujaga-braised sukiyaki-style beef with potatoes and onions. Credit: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times