Sunday, April 02, 2017


Dashi is the essential stock in Japanese cuisine. It is made by immersing katsuoboshi (dried, smoked and cured bonito or skipjack tuna) shavings in boiling water then straining the liquid. Other possible ingredients to make dashi include konbu (kelp seaweed), niboshi (small dried anchovies), dried mackerel or iriko (dried sardine).
This deceptively simple stock is prized for the umami taste it imparts, now widely acknowledged as the fifth basic taste after sweet, sour, salty and bitter. First discovered by Professor Kikunae Ikeda from the Tokyo Imperial University in 1908, umami is a combination of two Japanese words, umai (delicious) and mi (taste). Described as meaty savouriness, umami is unique as it can enhance the inherent flavours of other ingredients, hence making food tastes even more delicious.
At Dashi Dining Saya, the umami aspect of dashi plays a central role in its offerings; from miso soup and chawanmushi to home-style Japanese dishes such as dashi maki tamago (Japanese omelette) and chazuke (rice with dashi & tea broth).
The parent company, Asmo Catering (M) Sdn Bhd also runs Dashi Delica Saya, the Japanese delicatessen proffering a wide range of homespun Japanese dishes for takeaway at Isetan, The Japan Store in KL. According to Masao Shimizu, Director - Malaysia of Dashi Dining Saya/Asmo Catering, Asmo is a diversified group in Japan with F&B businesses in Taipei and Hong Kong.
Dashi Dining Saya & Dashi Delica Saya are the company's first foray into Malaysia in tandem with the opening of the newly rejuvenated Isetan, The Japan Store in KL. Plans are the pipeline to open similar outlets in future, as and when suitable locations have been chosen and secured.

Shimizu-san said: "Our two flagship outlets entered the local F&B scene to widen the repertoire of Japanese cuisine among local food lovers. We want Malaysians to know there's so much more to Japanese food than sushi, sashimi and tempura. Dashi Dining Saya & Dashi Delica Saya would like introduce typical home-style dishes eaten by most Japanese to the local clientele, enabling them to sample and familiarise themselves with what we offer." 

Open your minds and palate to sample these 5 'must try' homestyle goodies from Dashi Dining Saya:

The soulful speciality of Rice with Hot Dashi Soup and Soy-Marinated Tuna Sashimi (RM29) is highly recommended. Diners can decide on the amount of rice they prefer - small (200g), medium (250g + RM2) or large (300g + RM3) with free refill of Saya's special dashi soup. 
Besides the bowl of rice topped with slices of succulent soy-marinated tuna, crunchy pearls of rice puffs and shredded nori, the set comes with a side dish of chikuzenni, traditional stew of lotus root, carrot, mushroom, chicken and burdock root and a small bowl of hijiki, a type of brown sea vegetable cooked in a sweetish sauce with chopped burdock and carrot.
To enjoy the hearty offering, sprinkle chopped spring onion and sesame seeds onto the rice. Then pour the hot dashi broth onto it and slurp up the delicious mixture after giving it a good stir.

There's also Rice with Hot Dashi Soup and Marinated Cod Roe (RM24) or the more popular variants of Rice with Hot Dashi Soup and Grilled Salmon Flakes or Grilled Mackerel (RM27).

An assortment of these homely specialities can be enjoyed at Dashi Dining Saya in the form of Ume (RM32) and Take (RM38) set meals. The Take Set shown above is great value for money as it comprises six dishes with a bowl of white rice and miso soup.
The first offering distills the umami essence perfectly as the savoury nuance of the unctuous sauce in the Tofu and Kinoko Mushroom with Dashi Sauce was discernible in the soft beancurd. Shiitake mushroom is also umami-rich so you'd be smacking your lips with satisfaction after eating this.
We thoroughly relished the second dish of delectable Fried Chicken Saya-Style too. The meaty pieces were tender and flavourful yet crisp to the bite on the outside.
Fruity sweet Tomato with Dashi Apple Jelly was also featured. Imported Japanese tomatoes aren't cheap and a whole fruit from Dashi Delica Saya costs RM8 alone. Slathered in subtly sweet jelly, the tomato was firm yet succulent and juicy on the palate.
Also included in the assortment was the trad Chikuzenni in addition to a huge piece of Hokkaido Beef Croquette which provided textural contrast.
Lastly, Grilled Mackerel stuffed with Eringi Mushroom completed the substantial selection. A sheen of Japanese-style barbecue sauce lent the fish moistness whilst its fungi stuffing bestowed different textural interest. Light eaters may find it a challenge to finish all these delicacies accompanied by rice and soup but heartier diners will find themselves replete from the meal.

A perennial comfort food in Japan especially in winter, Oden is the Japanese version of yong tau foo. Most of the key ingredients for oden are made from processed fish paste such as chikuwa (tubular fish paste), kamaboko (fish paste with pink rim and white centre) and satsuma-age (fried fish cake patties) among others. Hard-boiled eggs, chunks of daikon (radish), konnyaku and fried beancurd are also common in the repertoire.
A sample selection of different Oden items (pix from archives)
You can pick and mix various Oden items from Dashi Delica Saya daily. The goodies are served in dashi broth with a dollop of mustard, available for takeaway or dine-in too if seats are available at Dashi Dining Saya. Give these tempting morsels a go next time you see this.
Shimizu-san then pointed out some uncommon Japanese delights from the display counter to us, one of which is Grilled Mackerel with Grated Daikon (RM9 per piece). "We notice Malaysians enjoy eating fish especially salmon. Our chef created this mackerel dish to add greater variety to our food repertoire and also to please customers who prefer lightly cooked fish dishes," said Shimizu-san. 

Indeed, the delicious mackerel is moistened by an appetising savoury dashi stock with generous toppings of grated Japanese radish, ginger slivers and chopped spring onion giving it subtle 'fresh' flavours.

We also cluck with approval the family-friendly offering of Chicken Chop Nagoya Style (RM12). Quite a lot of work has gone into the boneless chicken roll which is stuffed with asparagus and grilled with teriyaki sauce. Just slice up the roll once warmed up to serve.  
It's best to scour Dashi Delica Saya personally to see the range available. Some of the current selection should pique interest with familiar ingredients like lady's fingers, radish and chicken prepared in decidedly Japanese style. Onigiri (Japanese triangular rice balls) and takeaway lunch boxes are also sold here.
Dashi Dining Saya & Dashi Delica Saya are located at the Lower Ground Floor, Isetan The Japan Store, Lot 10, Jalan Sultan Ismail, KL. Tel: 03-2110 1479. 

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