Soup Stock (出汁)

Soup stock is a liquid seasoning used to add certain tastes--sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and particularly the good taste extracted from meat, vegetables, mushrooms, seaweed or others--to dishes. Soup stock not only includes abundant amino acids and nucleic acids--which are both appreciated via the sense of taste--but it also has high nutritional value.

Soup stock in Japanese cuisine

In Japanese cuisine, soup stock is one of the most basic, most important ingredients. It is often said those who are unskilled at making soup stock are unable to make good Japanese dishes. In Japanese cuisine, soup stock is extracted by simmering konbu (a kind of kelp), katsuobushi (a dried bonito), ajibushi (dried scad), niboshi (also called iriko) (small dried sardines), dried flying fish and other varieties of dried fish. Soup stock is also extracted by slowly steeping the dried ingredients, such as dried mushrooms, in water. In Japan, the soup stock extracted from the shaved katsuobushi is so typical as to often be called just "soup stock"; the details of extraction and the naming of the extracts are explained below. Rare as it is, the meat of a sea turtle, soft-shelled turtle (or chicken) is also used as a raw material.
In vegetarian cuisine, soybeans, bean sprouts, tofu (bean curd) and other materials are used besides konbu and mushrooms;
(The counterparts in Western cuisine are fond and bouillon, while that in Chinese cuisine is tan, but these are generally extracted by simmering the material for several hours.)
(The soup stock in Chinese and Western cuisine is explained below.)
It is characteristic of the soup stock used in Japanese cuisine that the savoriness of the material is extracted and utilized within a short time.

Soup stock is used for the above-mentioned soup dishes as well as pot dishes, including oden (a Japanese dish containing all kinds of ingredients cooked in a special broth of soy sauce, sugar, sake, etc). There also exists vinegar-based soup stock, such as nihaizu (vinegar and soy sauce mixed in roughly equal proportions) and sanbaizu (vinegar, soy sauce and mirin [sweet cooking rice wine] mixed in roughly equal proportions), and occasionally, a small amount of soup stock is added to aegoromo (traditional Japanese dressing), which is used for aemono (chopped fish, shellfish, or vegetables, prepared with some dressing). Incidentally, in western Japan it isn't rare for the Japanese word 'dashi' to mean not the above-mentioned soup stock but the very sauce for udon (Japanese wheat noodles). In Kagawa Prefecture, which is known for Sanuki udon ("Sanuki" is the old name of the prefecture), many households have their own "dashi-joyu" (soup stock seeped into soy sauce), which is used as an udon sauce.

Okinawan cuisine often uses the soup stock extracted from katsuobushi, konbu and pork, and the pork variety is made by straining the broth of boiled pork.

Ichiban-dashi (first brewing of soup stock)
Here, the method of extracting the soup stock from katsuobushi is explained in detail, because this one is often used in Japanese cuisine.

To extract the soup stock from katsuobushi, put shaved pieces of katsuobushi into a pot of hot water and then immediately turn off the flame; when the shaved katsuobushi sinks, strain the extract-seeped hot water. This strained soup stock is called "ichiban-dashi."

Niban-dashi (second brewing of soup stock)
To get niban-dashi, pour water on the already-used katsuobushi, and then heat the water for some time; finally, strain the extract-seeped hot water. Ichiban-dashi is used for clear soup, while niban-dashi is used for miso soup (soybean paste-based soup) or for foods boiled in broth.

Soup stock in Western cuisine

In Western cuisine, the raw materials of soup stock are beef, chicken, fish, vegetables, fragrant herbs and others. Besides meat, their fibers and bones are also used, and after being browned in an oven they're simmered for several hours. To eliminate the odor, a set of fragrant herbs, called a "bouquet garni" (parsley, thyme and bay leaf), is used. When shrimp and lobster are cooked, the shells are occasionally used as materials in the soup stock. They are referred to as "en stock."

In French cuisine, the soup stock extracted from veal is called "fond de veau," that from lamb is called "fond d'agneau," that from game (venison, boar or rabbit) or wildfowl (such as quail) is called "fond de gibier," that from chicken is called "fond de volaille," and that from fish is called "fumet de poisson."

Soup stock in Chinese cuisine

In Chinese cuisine, the materials frequently used to extract soup stock are chicken, chicken bones, pork, Chinese ham, scallop, dried shrimp and others.

Soup stock in South Korean (or Korean) cuisine

South Korean cuisine frequently uses beef and pork as the materials for the extraction of soup stock, and additionally they use the soup stock from shellfish in cooking.

Simple version

Because the above-mentioned method of soup-stock extraction took too much time, the good-tasting ingredients in the raw materials have been extracted scientifically and resulted in popular products. They are roughly divided into two types: a liquid one and a solid one. Most of them are called "taste enhancers."

The liquid type

Various types of liquid soup stock are sold in bags or bottles. Most of them are concentrated, so they have to be diluted with water when used in cooking. For example, shirodashi (white soy sauce with soup stock), which is used for udon (Japanese wheat noodles), soup dishes and pot dishes, is available in the marketplace, as is akadashi (a soup stock utilizing dark-brown soybean paste), which is used for foods boiled in broth.

Solid type

In this type, the ingredients are processed into powder or solid form by draining the water from the raw materials. A famous example is the inosinic acid (which gives dried bonito its good taste) taken from the raw material, which is made into powder in combination with salt.
In the marketplace, various kinds of products are sold, such as katsuobushi-flavored "Hondashi" (manufactured by Ajinomoto Co., Inc.) and the extracts of chicken-bone broth, bouillon and consomme;
(In many cases, these products are generally called "Ajinomoto," but this name is registered trademark exclusively used by Ajinomoto Co., Inc.)
(Originally, "Ajinomoto" meant the seasoned formulation of glutamic acid, not that of inosinic acid.)
(However, for business use a pure formulation of glutamic acid is provided for Chinese restaurants and others.)

Packaged soup stock

Basically, this type of product employs a different production method than the previous two, but they have the same purpose of extracting the soup stock in a short time. Put the material, such as katsuobushi, konbu or a fish meal, into a paper bag or the like that serves as a filter, then pour hot water on it to obtain soup stock.

As an idiomatic phrase

In Japanese, when a person uses somebody else or something for his own purpose or interest, this behavior can be described as 'dashi ni suru,' which literally means, 'uses somebody else or something as his (or her) own 'dashi' (soup stock),' but this is also a typical Japanese idiomatic phrase in reference to food.

Incidentally, the Japanese idiomatic phrase of "dashi ni suru" can be simply translated into the English word of "use" in many cases.