For a quick fish stock you should always have some dried bonito flakes on hand. Also known as Katsuobushi, these flakes are easy to find nowadays in most markets thanks to our newfound love of sushi and Japanese cuisine. If you live in an area where they’re difficult to find though, look online or at a local Asian grocery. They’re out there.
Bonito flakes are made of dried, smoked skipjack tuna (also known as arctic bonito) although sometimes regular bonito is used as an inexpensive substitute. Don’t let the name bonito throw you though, since each of these fish belongs to completely different genera. I know this is confusing, but stick with me. Bonito broth is also just one step away from dashi, which is the base for miso soup and is the name of the stock most commonly used in Japan. Bonito broth becomes dashi when kombu or dried kelp is added to the broth. It’s really that simple. The names of the ingredients might be a bit new, but the cooking methods are simple and easy to follow. Making this stock helps you to make other delicious and nourishing soups and I’ve used bonito broth with rice too since it’s a base flavor for many Japanese dishes.
This recipe can also be used as a substitute for fish stock if you can’t find any and you need some for a recipe. That’s why you should always keep some bonito flakes in stock in your pantry. They’re easy to prepare in a pinch.
Overall, this recipe is very different from the traditional Japanese preparation. Traditionally, the bonito flakes (and dried kelp) are steeped quickly as if they were tea. The ingredients are then strained and if you chose to make a second steeping, you steep them one more time—although the second batch often comes out cloudier.
The Nourishing Traditions method of simmering bonito flakes for several hours is unique. I was skeptical about it working since I’ve always prepared dashi the traditional way. Like many of the recipes in the book, this one surprised me. It’s not exactly what I’m accustomed to, but it works. As a matter of fact, I grew accustomed to its taste once I got over the initial shock. Also this recipe is a wonderful source of minerals and has a great place in a nutrient dense diet.
Bonito broth is often sipped alongside fish dishes. This recipe has a very strong taste of vinegar and I wouldn’t recommend using it for this purpose. Otherwise, it works well for many of the Asian-inspired recipes in the book.
Tips for making
- Nourishing Traditions says that there is no need to strain the broth when you’re finished because the flakes will disintegrate into the fish stock, giving it great flavor.
- I chose to strain mine because the flakes in the broth did not disintegrate. I’ve made this recipe twice now and it happened both times. It’s up to you. The texture of the dried fish flakes is not for everyone. I think that strained the taste is nice.
- As for cooking for “several hours” I think that simmering for about 2 hours works well.
- The original recipe does not specify which kind of vinegar to use. I found that rice vinegar tastes best.
- Be sure to keep the simmering liquid covered. The first time I did this I lost a lot of broth to evaporation.
Makes 2 quarts
Page in NT: 120
- about 1 cup shaved dried bonito (available in Asian markets or online)
- 2 quarts cold filtered water
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar (reduce to 2 T if you’ll be sipping the broth)
- Combine ingredients in a stainless steel pot.
- Bring to a boil and then skim.
- Let simmer for several hours.