Thursday, April 26th, 2012 | posted by mike
The last two fish reports were inspired by Japanese dishes that utilized ingredients that are full of umami (the fifth, savory, meaty flavor brought out by either natural glutamates or MSG). The kombu (kelp) used in dashi stock has natural glutamates that contribute to the umami in so many Japanese dishes. Soy sauce is another source and clams are also full of natural umami.
For years I’ve been selling manila clams to my Japanese customers knowing that they would be making miso soup with them. Called Asari in Japan, these clams came to the U.S. in the 1940s along with oyster spat and started to establish themselves in California.
The manila clams we sell are mainly raised in Washington and British Colombia and are the most widely distributed clams in the world. I love these sweet little guys but until now I’ve never attempted to prepare the famous Asari miso soup. We love them so much in the spaghetti con le vongole recipe (Italian style with garlic, white wine and parsley over pasta) or in paella, we never got around to preparing what turned out to be a rich, delicious and healthful clam soup. And what a beautiful dish! Each manila clam has a totally different pattern on it! When covered in the liquid of the stock the patterns and colors are brought out and really shine!
Like the last two fish report recipes and also countless other Japanese dishes, dashi (kombu bonito flake stock) are key ingredients. We used instant dashi granules that worked in those recipes but for this recipe I decided it was time to make my own dashi and really do this recipe justice. It’s really pretty simple and the flavor was great! Kombu (dried kelp seaweed) water and bonito flakes are basically all you need. There are different types of dashi. Some use shitake mushrooms or dried sardines. Aside from soup stock they are used for noodle stocks or simmering stocks. Recipes vary on how long to soak or simmer. This recipe is fast and easy with a light flavor. I knew we would get a lot of flavor and umami from the clams and their juice.