Editor’s note: The theme of Gohan Lab is to help people make simple, tasty “gohan” (meals).

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“‘Dashi’ stock and soup” is the theme of the four-part series starting this week. The aim is to readily make dashi and soup that can accompany any main dish for dinner at home.

First up is a chicken, tomato and mushroom soup. The source of the deep, soothing flavor that is simple to cook is the combination of ingredients that contain a savory umami taste, such as glutamic acid and inosinic acid.

The drumette, or the first segment of the chicken wing, is great for soup since the skin offers gelatin along with the meat.

When the chicken wing is boiled with sake, its smell evaporates and a clear richness emerges in the soup, making it even tastier. The idea is to add tomatoes and “maitake” mushrooms to enhance the umami as well as the aroma.

“It’s like nurturing the soup in the pot,” says chef Kuniaki Arima, who supervised the cooking process.

For the arranged version, we put a bit of soy sauce in the finished soup and topped it with some relish to make “dashi chazuke,” stock poured on cooked rice in a Japanese twist of the Western recipe.

Infinite combinations of ingredients for dashi

The cookery science aspect of this series is supervised by Hiroya Kawasaki, who studies the science of flavor and cooking methods in collaboration with top chefs at Ajinomoto’s Institute of Food Sciences and Technologies. He defines “dashi” as “liquid food in which umami and aromatic elements contained in the ingredients are dissolved.”

The umami and aromatic components are concentrated in the dried “kombu” kelp and “katsuobushi” (boiled, dried, smoked and fermented skipjack tuna) used in Japan, making them great food for preparing stock in a short time.

But Kawasaki says that by taking a wider view, you’ll find many other ingredients around you that are suited for making stock.

“The combination is endless, and you can enjoy designing the flavor of your choice,” says Kawasaki who in his recipe uses his most recent findings to provide some useful tips for daily life.

BASIC COOKING METHOD

(Supervised by Kuniaki Arima in the cooking aspect and Hiroya Kawasaki in the cookery science aspect)

* Ingredients and cooking utensils (Serves three)

6 drumettes, 6 cherry tomatoes, 1 package (100 grams) maitake mushrooms, 2 fine slices garlic, 150 ml sake, 800 ml water, 1 tsp salt, kitchen knife and cutting board, pot and ladle

1. Remove calyx from cherry tomatoes and cut in half. Finely slice garlic. Tear maitake into bite-size pieces (PHOTO A).

2. Pour sake in pot, add drumettes and place over medium heat. The key is to boil the sake thoroughly (PHOTO B). When alcohol is burned off, it will take away the smell of meat.

3. Add garlic and water. When soup comes to a boil, skim off foam. Lower heat so surface laps gently and the soup bubbles in 2 or 3 places. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Leave lid off. Skim off foam halfway if necessary until soup clears. Taste. If you’ve done it right, you will sense the umami and aroma of chicken.

4. Add salt, cherry tomatoes and maitake. Turn up heat slightly and cook for 5 to 6 minutes so the flavors of tomato and maitake blend with soup. Mix lightly and taste. The umami and aroma should have deepened. If necessary, add salt to taste (PHOTO C).

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Kuniaki Arima is the owner-chef of Italian restaurant Passo a Passo, located in Tokyo’s Fukagawa.

Hiroya Kawasaki studies the science of tastiness and cooking methods at Ajinomoto Co.’s Institute of Food Sciences and Technologies.

ARRANGED VERSION

<Rice with chicken stock>

This Western-style soup will turn Japanese with a little bit of relish. Enjoy the ingredients separately and use only the soup to pour on a bowl of rice. When the chicken, tomato and mushroom soup is done, add 1 tsp soy sauce.

Finely chop pickled Chinese cabbage and fresh “myoga.” Serve rice in a bowl, pour soup over it and top with the relish. Wasabi and “umeboshi” (pickled ume) can also be used as relish. If you do not have enough soup, add some green tea.

COOKERY SCIENCE

There are mainly three umami components found in food. Kombu kelp, vegetables, including tomato, and fermented food contain a lot of glutamic acid, while meat and fish contain inosinic acid. Guanylic acid is found in mushrooms and the umami increases when they are dried or heated. Ingredients rich in umami components are used effectively in traditional soups found in various localities.

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Gohan Lab column