The Dashi Vending Machine [43/365]

Dashi Vending Machine

Last week a friend shared this image on Facebook:

dashi vending machine

In reference to the warning at the bottom I posted a silly dialogue:

VENDING MACHINE: Do not drink. This is a vending machine of dashi.

ME: Dashi?! Sounds delicious!! I’m gonna try some! *glug glug glug*

VENDING MACHINE: 🤦‍♀️

 * * * *

…but what is dashi?

出汁
(だし)
“dashi”
a type of soup and cooking stock used in Japanese cuisine

Dashi forms the base of miso soup and many other broths in Japanese cooking. It is typically used to accentuate an “umami” taste.

うま味
(うまみ)
“umami”
the savoury taste found in broths and cooked meat

Many Westerners don’t use the word umami, but it is still considered one of the five basic tastes alongside sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness.

Dashi is usually made from water, kombu, and kezurikatsuo.

昆布
(こんぶ)
“kombu”
kelp

削り
(けずり)
“kezuri”
shaved, shavings of

カツオ
(かつお)
“katsuo”
skipjack tuna (also called “bonito”)

かつお節
(かつおぶし)
“katsuobushi”
small pieces of bonito

Wikipedia tells us something interesting:

Homemade dashi, made from dried kombu and katsuobushi, is less popular today, even in Japan. Granulated or liquid instant dashi replaced the homemade product in the second half of the 20th century. Compared to the taste of homemade dashi, instant dashi tends to have a stronger, less subtle flavor, due to the use of chemical flavor enhancers: glutamates and ribonucleotides.

Going back to the vending machine…what is the meaning of the vertical text on the right?

Dashi Vending Machine text

だし
“dashi”
dashi (we know what this means now!)

道楽
(どうらく )
“dōraku”
hobby/pastime/favourite amusement

I interpret the sign to be emphasising the enjoyment people receive from using this dashi. Perhaps normally cooking with dashi would not be considered a hobby activity, but the vending machine can make dashi seem more enticing by combining it with “dōraku”, a word that could have connotations of fun and relaxation.

I like that the vending machine company were considerate enough to leave an English warning for foreigners, dissuading them from buying what looks like a drink, but I find it amusing that many gaikokujin reading the sign would not know what dashi is and might purchase it anyway out of curiosity!

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