Whenever I haven’t eaten seafood in a while I always seem to end up doing a big mix of the lovely stuff in bowl. This was absolutely no exception.
I have always been a fan of seafood soups. Bouillibasse (in it’s many incarnations) has been my favorite for a long time, but takes a while to cook which wasn’t something I was after on this particular night. Miso soup on the other hand can actually be ready in a flash, even if you do dump a big stash of seafood in it.
There are many things I love about Miso soup. The first is just how abstract I find the individual components – especially since I am not incredibly versed in Japanese cooking. Whoever thought of combining fermented soy beans (miso), dried fish flakes, seaweed and water together was most likely a bit of a nut-job, but a bloody brilliant one at that. I love how darn easy it is to make a very tasty soup. I love it when meat and two veg guests come over, and you tell them what is going into the soup (happened this night in fact.. ). I love just how bloody well it pairs with seafood (thanks to the dashi base). I love the soft clouds of miso that mix through the soup on each stir with a chopstick.
It was a good evening. Danika’s parents came over. I scared her Mum by getting her to sniff and guess what was going into the soup. Bowls were clean by the end of the meal. Danika’s Mum is now a fan of dried fish flakes and fermented soy beans.
So what seafood goes in? Well, in my mind just about anything that isn’t too fatty. You also want stuff that holds together pretty well. You cannot go wrong with shellfish (so true in so many occasions) – clams, mussels, shrimp are all worthy contenders. Cockles, and even lobster would certainly be possible – as would crab. I like to bung a few chunks of fish in there too – and my favorite for this is monkfish tail. Avoid salmon for this one. Just make sure that all the seafood is really fresh, otherwise the soup is going to taste pretty stale.
Whilst you are at it, why not pop in some mushrooms too? Heck, a little bit of baby bok choy wouldn’t hurt either (I forgot that one this time round..). Green onions to give a little tang.
I like to serve just some simple short grain rice on the side, dressed with a little seasoned rice wine vinegar, ginger and shallots. I obviously don’t have to talk about Sake here. Nuff said.
The Dashi recipe below comes thanks to the wonderful book “Harumi’s Japanese Cooking”, by Harumi Kurihara.
Seafood Miso Soup Recipe
Mix of seafood including, but not limited to:
8 large shrimp
1 monkfish tail – about 1/2lb
Sake – two wine glasses
Dashi (soup base):
8 cups of water
2 4×4″ peices of dried kombu seaweed
2 tablespoons of dried fish flakes (dried bonito flakes)
8 tablespoons of miso paste
Handful of mixed mushrooms – enoki, shitake and so on
2 green onions – finely sliced
1 cup of short grain sushi rice
seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Start by prepping the seafood. Scrub the clams. Scrub the mussels – removing any barnacles stuck onto the shell. Pull off the mussel beard. Discard any clams or mussels that have broken shells, or are open and don’t close when you tap them. Trim the monkfish tail. You want to remove any of the black membrane that may be on it. Cut the monkfish into 1″ cube pieces. Wash the shrimp, and remove the vein if necessary.
Now to make the dashi. Put the seaweed and water together in a medium saucepan. Let sit for 10 minutes. Heat the pan. As the water starts to get warm, remove the seaweed and discard. When the water starts to boil, add in the fish flakes, and cook for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat. The stock is ready when the fish flakes have dropped to the bottom of the pan. Strain the broth, and discard the flakes.
In a small bowl combine the seasoned rice wine vinegar, ginger and shallot.
Cook the rice according to package directions.
Now to cook the seafood. In one pan (with a lid) heat half of the sake. Do the same with the other glass of sake in another pan with a tight fitting lid. When the sake in the first pan comes to a boil, let it reduce a bit and then toss in the clams and mussels. Cover. Let cook for a minimum of 3 minutes. You should start hearing the shells open, and start smelling the sea. Take a peek in the pan after 3 minutes. If 3/4 of the shells are open – good stuff, take off the heat. If not, cook for a little longer and check again. In the other pan of boiling sake put the monkfish tail pieces mushrooms and shrimp. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until the shrimp and monkfish are just cooked through.
Make sure the dashi is just boiling. Mix in the miso paste. Stir to thoroughly combine.
Pour the vinegar over the rice, and gently mix. Divide between 4 small bowls.
Divide all the seafood and mushrooms between 4 other bowls. Pour over the dashi. Top with a little of the sliced green onions.
Serve the seafood miso soup and rice with some lovely gently warmed sake.