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.