Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Make your own natural instant stock powder

Stock is my all-important kitchen essential. You throw in some rice or noodles or vegetables or meat into good stock and you get a delicious risotto or comforting noodle soup or creamy vegetable soup or a nice stew. It's the secret something special behind a simple dish. Good stock to me is usually bone broths, slow-simmered over hours to extract the flavour and nutrients from that leftover carcass. I never never waste any scrap of bones so I usually have stock in the fridge. I try my Martha-Stewart-best, but I don't always have stock on standby though.

For those situations, I resort to "quick stocks", made very simply with Asian cupboard essentials- dried anchovies or dried shrimps, or for vegetarian versions, shiitake mushrooms or kelp. It's often quite simple, just boil the dried anchovies (ikan bilis) or shrimps in water for 20 min or so, and because they're so small, you get their flavour quite quickly. Shiitake mushrooms and kelp are even better, just soak in warm water for 30 min or so till they soften. They're perfect for unplanned stock because these dried goodies can keep for quite a while in your larder without going bad-- very important for someone with a fridge less than half her dwarfish asian height.

And then one day I was walking around the supermarket, and I saw ikan bilis (quite obviously the supermarket was in Singapore, not London) and mushroom stock powders and cubes. Of course, ikan bilis and mushroom stock powder have a lot more in them than just ikan bilis and mushrooms, mainly things that I can't pronounce properly or end in dubious numbers. Thus, my homemade instant stock powder was born!

Homemade Instant Stock Powder
(example here is for ikan bilis stock)
dried anchovies (ikan bilis)

1. Toast the anchovies in a low oven to make sure they're completely dry. You'll also start smelling the delicious (ok subjective) savoury smell of roasted anchovies, which definitely adds to the flavour.
2. Let cool completely. Throw into a food processor or blender and whizz up until you get a fine powder. Store in an airtight container, preferably in the fridge if you want it to keep longer.

That's it! I know some people may recoil at the idea of anchovies, but it's often used for Asian soups. It's also full of calcium since you eat the soft edible bones, and iodine since you eat the head (Oops I'm putting more people off aren't I?)

Anyway, you can do the same for dried shrimps, dried mushrooms, or kelp. The great thing about this is you can not only stir it into hot water for instant stock, you can sprinkle this over your stirfries for an instant umami hit. (Anchovies are great with garlic and spinach, fyi. One of my mum's favourite vegetable stirfry combi.)

Bonus tip: Break off the stalks for dried shiitake mushrooms and grind them up instead, because that tough part takes forever to soften and hence usually gets discarded after soaking, which is a complete waste of perfectly tasty mushroomy flavours.


  1. My sis in law's MIL does this too, and gives her a huge bottle to bring back to US

  2. This is such a great idea. I always waste mushroom stalks too. Thank you!

  3. I recently started saving loads of stuff in the freezer for soup stocks - celery off-cuts, old bits of mushroom, pieces of onion I didn't use and so forth. I never thought to make stock powder though. How long does it normally take to dry out the anchovies? It sounds delicious!

  4. I would love to try out your instant stock powder! Would you be able to recommend any good online suppliers to me?? Just my sort of thing, thanks x

  5. Ikan bilis stock sounds very intriguing and I would love to taste it one day. I love your home-made instant stock idea. I make my own instant vegetable stock, but it's much much easier and ordinary: I simply cut or grate the vegetables and dry them and keep together in a jar.
    I also stock, like Charles, many things for the basic stock in the freezer.

  6. This is a fascinating idea. I don't know where to find the right kind of anchovies, but I will not let that deter me. More later.

  7. I have been using ikan bilis quite often to flavor up soup. Usually, I will dry-toast them in the same pot I am cooking the soup.

  8. Why doesn't the stock just taste and smell of fish or like shrimp paste? GG

  9. Ahh this is such a good idea! I always struggle to have good stock around that isn't just bought from a (bad British) supermarket... and my boyfriend goes crazy for anchovies. Going to have to try this.

  10. Wendy: that's what my mum did before I came over to London this year!

    L: Yup, I hate wasting food!

    Charles: that's great, I do that too, but my freezer is about the size of two shoeboxes, so there's a limit to how much I can save! they take quite fast, about 20 min?

    laura: you can usually get these Asian essentials from any Asian groceries store! I haven't tried getting them online before..

    Sissi: ditto reply to Charles. I'm intrigued by the dried vegetables though. how do you do that and how long do they keep?

    Stephen: you can fund them in Asian stores!

    tigerfish: Yup, dry roasting them first and then grinding makes it super convenient for adding to quick soups and dishes!

    Gg: fish sauce or shrimp paste are made from fermented anchovy it shrimps. the taste and smell is quite different!

    balloonwhisk: still cant replace real slow cooked stock, but it's great for when you're caught unprepared! :)

  11. Love this recipe and tip, I usually buy powedered dashi, I am sure your one must be much more flavourful!

  12. Great idea - not too far removed from frying anchovies (i.e. cured fillets packed in oil) until they dissolve for added savouriness to pasta sauces and the like.

  13. This a great idea; I'd love to try making my own stock powder.

    "very important for someone with a fridge less than half her dwarfish asian height." LOL

    Is your fridge really that tiny?

  14. That bonus tip about mushroom stems is brilliant. Thanks! Love you blog, by the way. So much info and lovely looking food.

  15. i wish i'd thought of this before. great idea! we usually take out the bellies and heads of the anchovies before adding to stock. but dry roasting and blitzing is a wonderful way to save time. =)

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