Japanese soups

Japanese soups

As far as I know, there are several types of soups in Japanese cuisine/ 和食(washoku).
Two of the most well-known soups are 吸い物(suimono)/ Japanese clear soup and 味噌汁(misoshiru)/ miso soup. Many people in Japan add this sound (o) お to the front of these soups. I prefer to add it because it sounds sweet and respectful.

(O)Suimono/ Clear soup

Suimono is a clear soup where you can enjoy its beautiful aroma of dashi/ broth and umami. For this soup, dashi is very important, so “Kombu and Katsuo Ichiban Dashi is usually used for it.

To make an extremely clear soup, many chefs at fancy restaurants use katsuobushi flakes without the dark red flesh. The flakes called 血合抜き(chiainuki) are a beautiful beige color and have a weaker miscellaneous flavor.

The beautiful presentation is another charm of this soup. Suimono consists of three types of ingredients and dashi flavored with small amounts of soy sauce and salt.

All ingredients of the suimono are assembled inside of a beautiful lacquerware bowl when served at restaurants or for the guests visiting our homes.

First, protein-based ingredients are placed on the bottom, such as fish, shellfish, tofu, etc. It’s called 椀種(wandane).

Next, 椀づま(wanzuma) is added. It is used to complement the wandane, such as vegetables, mushrooms or seaweeds. Wanzuma is also essential for making the presentation more appealing.

For the final touch, a small portion of Japanese citruses such as yuzu or Japanese herbs is put on the top of the ingredients to add fragrance. These ingredients are called 吸口(suikuchi).

When you open the lid, you’ll probably be fascinated by the rich and elegant aroma that rises from the bowl. I love that moment.

We don’t usually make such a fancy suimono for home cooking. You can enjoy suimono more casually with some simple ingredients.
To be precise, some of them shouldn’t be called suimono. They are more like 澄まし汁(sumashijiru).
Sumashijiru is also a clear soup and has no rules which means you can use any ingredients to make it.

Since many people don’t care about the differences between these two soups, they usually get them mixed up.

Each time I post a new suimono recipe, I’m going to add it here.

(O)Misoshiru/ miso soup

Misoshiru/ miso soup is the most common soup and eaten on a daily basis in Japan. This soup is made of dashi, miso, and some other ingredients, for instance, vegetables, soybean products, and so on. Misoshiru is very regional and different from family to family.
Nowadays, the majority of people in Japan use instant dashi products for misoshiru. On the other hand, traditional natural ingredients became popular among the people who are concerned about food additives.

Kombu seaweed and katsuobushi are usually used for dashi of misoshiru, but boiled and dried sardines called 煮干し(niboshi) can also be used.

Niboshi

It’s especially common in the Kyushu area. (The purple area in the map below)

My mother came from Kyushu. So, she often used niboshi dashi and mugi miso for her misoshiru. To be honest, when I was a child, I didn’t like the strong oceanic flavor that came from niboshi, but today, I’ve developed a nostalgic feeling towards it.

Although I’ve introduced the recipes for “Ichiban-dashi” and “Niban-dashi” before, the dashi I make for misoshiru is a bit different.
When you make a thick-flavored dish or when you simmer multiple ingredients using Ichiban-dashi, it can ruin the delicate aroma of the dashi. Also, for me, the aroma of Niban-dashi is a bit weak. Above all, it’s too much work to make these two styles of dashi for daily meals.
I don’t know what I should call this dashi, but I would definitely say it’s “my daily dashi”. The recipe is below if you’re interested.

Thank you so much for reading this article. I introduced two types of the most well-known Japanese soup here. I hope you’ll enjoy both.


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