Dashi is a delicious soup stock that is the foundation of many Japanese dishes. It has a rich, savory, mouth-watering flavor – what Japanese call umami. Umami translates close to something like “deliciousness.” You could say dashi is the vehicle for umami in Japanese food. Without good dashi, you won’t get tasty Japanese food.
Ingredients to Make Dashi
There are many different types of dashi, each using a different combination of ingredients. But probably the two most important ingredients in dashi are kombu and bonito, or dried kelp and dried skipjack tuna.
Together these two ingredients create a broth that is layered with briney, delicious goodness that tastes like the ocean – in a good way. And both ingredients happen to be great sources of omega-3s.
Why We Made Dashi Into a Dog Treat
One of our rescue pups isn’t such a fan of fish. Once we tried mixing in a juicy, water-packed sardine into her kibble at dinner. She sniffed her bowl, then looked up with an expression that said: “You expect me to eat this??”
Meanwhile, our other rescue dog loves fishy foods. Sardines, anchovies, tuna, salmon, you name it. He’s been eating fish since he was a wee pup. We found it was the most easily digested protein for him when he little.
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Dog Fish
Still, we want both dogs to get the nutritional benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in eating fish, which promote strong hearts and shiny, healthy coats. Omega-3s also help manage allergies by reducing itchiness, dandruff, and hot spots.
Since both of our pups love Korean sweet potato, we started thinking how we could combine it with fish or other whole foods rich in omega-3s. We grew up eating soups made from dried anchovies, seaweed, and mushrooms. The idea of a dog treat based on those flavors instantly came to mind.
What Is Kelp?
Kelp is basically seaweed dried into thin sheets and has all kinds of nutrients that are great for dogs. Along with omega-3s, it contains minerals that maintain the health of your dog’s tissue and skin, such as iron, iodine, and magnesium. There’s also plenty of vitamin B12.
Kelp also is a great alternative to more traditional greens for dogs with sensitive tummies. Seaweed doesn’t have the same kind of fibrous cell walls made of cellulose, which makes it easier to digest.
A word of caution: Just take care not to let your dog eat dried-out seaweed lying around on the beach. If ingested, it can expand inside your dog’s stomach and cause blockages that can be fatal. Not to mention, you just don’t know what kind of creatures or pollutants are lurking inside.
Seaweed bought at the store has been commercially dried and processed for consumption, so it doesn’t have any of the problems associated with eating seaweed off the beach.
What Is Bonito?
Bonito is high in protein and amino acids, as well as iron, niacin, and vitamin B12. Several studies have shown that bonito helps lower blood pressure and the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
Bonito is made of skipjack tuna, one of the most abundant types of tuna available. Skipjack is a small tuna that grows and reproduces rapidly, so their populations are resilient to fishing. Skipjack also is a much safer choice over other types of tuna such as albacore, bigeye, and yellowfin. Because it’s a smaller fish, skipjack has relatively low levels of mercury levels than other tuna.
Making bonito is a centuries-old tradition. The fish is smoked to remove moisture and then sometimes fermented over the course of months to bring out deep, rich flavors. The process dries out and hardens the fish. Razor-thin flakes are created by shaving the fish with a box grater.
A Fussy-Dog Approved Delicious Combination
Both kombu and bonito are considered umami-rich foods but in different ways. Kombu or kelp gives off vegetal and earth. Bonito is deep, smoky fish. Together their flavors are the mother of all mouth-watering deliciousness!
Even our fish-phobic pup agrees. She’ll turn her nose at a plump sardine filet on its own, but never turns down a Dashi Gogoma Bake. Our Dashi bake uses a premium dried bonito (wild-caught from Japan) and the Korean version of kombu, called dashima.
As always, no preservatives, additives, corn, wheat, or soy. Only healthy, sustainable ingredients and, of course, feel-good yum!
Note: Studies on the health effects of bonito published in Nutrition Research and the Journal of Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology.
Photo credit: Jinomono Media