From French bouillon to Chinese soup stocks, broths made from long hours of simmering are common in many cuisines. But one as abundant in umami taste as the dashi broth, made instantly from briefly soaking or heating simple ingredients like dried bonito and kelp, is uniquely Japanese.
"Even when only lightly seasoned, one can fully enjoy the ingredients' natural flavors," Motokazu Nakamura, 51-year-old master chef at Nakamura Kyoto Cuisine and lecturer at the Japanese Culinary Academy in Kyoto, said of the power of dashi in enhancing the flavors of other ingredients. "Chefs around the world have come to be aware of umami."
Over a century since it was first discovered by a Japanese chemistry professor, umami — known as the "fifth basic taste" — has been attracting a spotlight in the global culinary arena in recent years.