When Chef Isao Yamada recently returned to my place for another cooking session, one of the first questions I asked him was prompted by a reader's comment asking for a method for an all-purpose version of kombu-katsuobushi dashi, the fundamental Japanese stock. Back in February, Yamada-san taught me the classic technique for preparing ichiban and niban dashi. But what about a versatile dashi a home cook can prepare, without going through the two-step ichiban/niban process? What Yamada-san suggested was a dashi in between the delicate taste of the ichiban, and the powerful taste of the niban, what he called iten goban dashi -- or, "one and a half dashi." The technique is very straightforward. I've been using this dashi since Yamada-san taught it to me for everything from miso soup to nimono; it's perfect. Here's how you prepare it:
4 cups of water
1 piece of kombu, about 6 inches long
2 handfuls of katsuobushi (this estimation works)
Heat the kombu and water in a saucepan over medium heat until it just about boils (you'll see tiny bubbles along the bottom of the pan). Remove the kombu and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil for about 10 to 20 seconds and remove any scum that rises to the surface (impurities from the kombu). Keep boiling and drop in the katsuobushi. Boil for 1 minute, then remove the saucepan from the heat. Let the katsuobushi steep for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how potent you want the dashi (test to find your sweet spot; I like 10 minutes for something like miso soup). Strain through a cheesecloth and you have your dashi.
(As always, my deepest appreciation and thanks to Yamada-san.)