Dashi is the secret to Japanese cooking, but Safeway doesn’t know it


Contrary to popular stereotypes, the most important staple secret ingredient in a Japanese kitchen is not soy sauce. It is dashi, or bonito fish broth. Apparently, most mainstream American supermarkets have not caught onto this important distinction. I was at Lucky supermarket during lunch today buying groceries and thinking that surely a modern grocery in the diverse city of San Francisco would have dashi, but was surprised to find that their “Asian Foods” section had a dozen different brands of soy sauce and not a single box of dashi.

When I got home, I called the neighborhood Safeway to try my luck there.

Me: Hi, do you sell dashi? You know, bonito fish broth.
Safeway lady: Excuse me?
Me: It’s a staple in any Japanese kitchen.
Safeway: Hold on, let me get someone to help you with that.
(She puts me on hold forever. I get sick of waiting and hang up.)

Interesting… I guess I have to go to Japantown to get some.

9 thoughts on “Dashi is the secret to Japanese cooking, but Safeway doesn’t know it

  1. I scored a major amount last weekend. I went into one of my usual Asian stores and found 60 of the same pictured Dashi containers for $1.25 each. Needless to say, I bought them all. I do not understand why the price was so low.

  2. That wouldn’t surprise me in the least that you couldn’t find bonito fish broth at a Safeway, even one on the west coast. I’d be willing to bet that you could find it at a Whole Foods but at more grossly inflated prices than in Japantown.

  3. Luckly, in Brazil, we don’t have this kind of problem. At least in Sao Paulo where there is a big Japanese community.
    Unfortunatelly, people here still think that the secret of Japanese cuisine is monosodium glutamate.

  4. If for some odd reason you can’t find it at JapanTown, try the Sunset Super way out on Judah street – the biggest Asian market in SF.