Gourmand Tokyo

This is everything you can eat in Tokyo.

What’s the differences taste of dashi between western and eastern of Japan?

The differences between Dashi (stock) made in Kanto(Eastern Japan) and one made in Kansai (western Japan) 

Why don’t we enjoy the taste depending on each ingredient.

The taste of Dashi made in Kansai and one made in Kanto are different because the ingredients are different. 

The ingredients used for making Dashi in Kanto is different from those in Kansai

In general, it is said that the taste of food is ”Thick in Kanto, bland in Kansai”, and not a few people experienced it. The root of this difference dates back to the Edo period. Originally,it was Kansai in which Kyoto is located that flourished as the center of food culture.

However, due to the foundation of Edo Shogunate, cultures in Kanto began to prosper. These are the reasons why each culture of Kansai and Kanto has matured in different ways.

There is a difference in the same Katsuobushi (dried bonito)

The food culture of Kansai and Kanto has developed in each way. There are some differences between Katsuobushi made in Kansai and the one made in Kanto, even both of them are just called Katsuobushi. In Kansai, dried bonito which are not fermented was preferred. The refreshing aroma with the scent of roasting and sourness are the major characteristics of dried bonito.

On the other hand, in Kanto, Karebushi (fermented dried bonito) began to be preferred from around the middle of the Edo period. Karebushi is sweet and its characteristic is the elegant aroma. You can enjoy milder taste. Even the same Katsuobushi, There are differences in taste between Kansai and Kanto. Dashi is utilized in a variety of dishes since it is the fundamentals of Japanese cuisine. Because the ingredients used for Dashi are different, it is natural that dishes in Kansai and ones in Kanto have some differences.

Example; Kansai style Katsuobushi

Example; Kanto style Katsuobushi

The seasoning of dishes has some differences!

The reason why the dishes in Kanto and Kansai is not only the difference of Dashi. From home cooking to cuisines eaten out, The seasoning of those dishes has some difference between Kansai and Kanto. Then, Why do dishes which seem similar turn out to be completely different from each other? We will inform you of the reason.

The reason why dishes in Kanto have basically “rich tastes”

It is very common to hear the episode that people in Kansai eat Udon in Kanto, then they were surprised with its deep color and rich taste. Generally, it is said that Dashi in Kanto has deep color and rich taste, while one in Kansai has light color and taste. In order to make use of the refreshing taste of kelp, salt and soy-sauce are just added to Kansai Dashi for seasoning. However,  Kanto Dashi is called Tsuyu, and Udon with it has the image of well-seasoned.

We eat it after covering the noodle with the soup which has a strong taste of soy-sauce.

There are some differences in soy-sauce

Koikuchi soy-sauce (strong soy-sauce) used for seasoning is one the reasons why Kanto dashi has deep color. Koikuchi soy−sauce has a heavy taste, hence it can season well from simmered dishes to grilled ones. On the contrary, Usukuchi soy-sauce (light soy-sauce) is used for Kansai Dashi. Suppressed flavor and light taste are unique. Koikuchi soy-sauce which has a strong taste of soy-sauce is used in Kanto, but Usukuchi soy-sauce is mainly used in Kansai as it is just used for seasoning. 

Example; Koikuchi soy-sauce

Example; Usukuchi soy-sauce

“Odashi” in Kansai and “Otsuyu” in Kanto

The Kanto-ver. of “Dashi” (stock) is usually called “Tsuyu” or “Otsuyu”. On the other hand, the Kansai-ver. of that is called “Odashi” or “Dashi” as itself. This happens not only because of the difference of the dialect between Kanto and Kansai, but also due to the nuance that each means. Below are each ways of seasoning in Kanto and Kansai and the way of using Dashi. 

Otsuyu, basically used to season with other seasonings’ strong flavor

Otsuyu in Kanto is characterized by its mild, sweet and even gorgeous flavor. It also has the distinctive scent of fish, so soy-sauce to add Otsuyu has to be strong as well to keep balance of taste. As a result of seasoning with both Otsuyu and strong soy-sauce, the original taste of ingredients can get another clear flavor and scent.

Odashi, used to accent the original flavor of ingredients

Odashi is uniquely made from Kombu as a main ingredient (sea cabbage), Niboshi (dried and boiled sardines) and bonito. Since the flavor of Dashi is the main part, soy-sauce is exclusively used only to season a little bit. This is why in Kansa, Udon (a kind of Japanese noodle) or Oden (a type of Japanese one-pot dishes, consisting of several ingredients such as eggs, radish or fishcakes) has a lighter color of its soup, and you can be satisfied with rich flavors of both Dashi and ingredients itself.

Do know “Don-bei” ? This is one of the most famous udon cup noodles in Japan, actually Don-bei has two western and eastern version based on where you are buying it, even there is no indicator on the its package. If you want to check them up, you could buy both of version of Don-bei on Amazon.

Eastern style Don-bei

Western style Don-bei

The transportation in the Edo period create the difference in tastes

It was not until the Edo period that Dashi flourished and got familiar with people’s lives. In those days, there was not much transportation system, compared to the current one. It’s about 310 miles from the capital in Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo), it takes 2 weeks on foot. People had difficulty in transporting komb via a shipping route in the Pacific Ocean, so it was very hard to obtain it in the Kanto area. As a result, people in Kanto started using local fishes to make Dashi and developed individually the way to cook cuisines. However, the taste of fishes caught in sea around Kanto is very light, so it needs to be seasoned with Otsuyu that has a strong flavor so that people could make perfect Dashi. In contrast, people in the Kansai area could easily get komb and catch fishes having strong flavor, therefore the way of cooking or seasoning to make use of the taste that ingredients have has been standardized there.

Enjoy the differences of Dashi in other areas

To tell you the truth, not only between Kansai and Kanto, but also among the Kyushu area (more western than Kansai), Hokkaido and areas facing the Japanese Sea, the flavors of Dashi are totally different thanks to local specialties in each district. You may think that every Dashi is similar to each other, but each of them actually has their own history and a typical flavor that others can never have. Every time you visit different areas of Japan, you will always be impressed by the rich tastes of Dashi you’ve never experienced before. You can easily purchase them on the Internet, there seems to be no other ways except trying to taste one by one and cook soup or Japanese cuisines by using different Dashi.