Umami is one of the most ubiquitous tastes in Japanese cuisine. You might not notice it at first, but after eating a lot of Japanese food, you’ll begin to taste the moreish, savory goodness. Dashi, a clear broth made from dried kombu and katsuobushi (fermented skipjack tuna) flakes, is the umami base for most Japanese meals, including miso soup, noodle dishes like ramen or udon and tamagoyaki.
Eric Wolfinger, a food photographer known for his work with the San Francisco bakery Tartine, introduces the world to dashi in the short film, ‘Dashi Journey’. The 15-minute documentary follows Shinobu Namae, head chef at the Michelin-starred French restaurant L'effervescence in Tokyo, as he searches for the origins of dashi. L’effervescence is known for its Japanese twist on classic French food, including the use of dashi in place of traditional French veal broth.
The surprisingly heartwarming film takes us to Rebun Island in Hokkaido for kombu, where we see how kelp is dried, and Makurazaki in Kagoshima, where we meet a family-run katsuobushi business. Dashi is a deceptively complex broth: using ingredients from the sea, it brings a distinctly Japanese taste to every meal it touches. Along with Namae, we are introduced to the people behind the umami-rich dashi, and the old-school practices still used today.
In the mood for more mouth-watering films? Check out these documentaries on Japanese cuisine.
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