Over the years, we’ve had three Japanese exchange students—Asami, Yuri and Yumi.
Asami was the first. Oh gosh, were we lucky with her. Before coming to Australia for a year of high school study to improve her English, she had a part-time job making sushi in Japan.
Beyond that I haven’t had much experience making Japanese food so this was the perfect book to use. Harumi Kurihara is Japan’s most popular cookery writer.
She wants everyone to be able to make her recipes, so the first part of her book explains the various ingredients and basic staples you should have on hand. Pages 32–33 show jars of colourful pickles, so I moved on to pages 132–33.
Miso soup with sesame and tofu
100g toasted sesame seeds, plus extra to garnish
800ml dashi stock (see recipe at bottom)
300g soft/silken tofu, drained
4–5 tablespoons awase miso
sansho leaf or finely sliced spring onion, to garnish
Grind the toasted sesame seed in a mortar with a pestle until they become sticky, almost like a paste.
Heat the dashi stock in a saucepan. Before it comes to the boil, add the drained tofu, tearing it into pieces before adding.
Gradually add the miso, stirring until completely dissolved. Add the sesame paste to the soup and stir in well.
Bring almost to the boil then remove from the heat. Serve sprinkled with some ground sesame seeds, and if available a sansho leaf or some finely sliced spring onions.
How it played out
I made this mostly as written, using a homemade dashi stock (recipe below). My only changes were to dice, rather than tear, the tofu and to give the toasted sesame seeds a quick buzz in the spice grinder.
My normal mortar and pestle were outside in the rain, and the one still indoors was too shallow to do the heavy-duty pounding that was needed to create a paste. Even with the grinder, the seeds stayed quite in tact, but that was okay with me.
I didn’t have any sansho leaves on hand, so used sliced spring onion (scallion).
Poor John and I enjoyed this for lunch. We both had two bowls of soup, so polished off the whole recipe.
It would make a great side soup as part of a Japanese meal, in which case it would easily serve 4.
For those who don’t already have a recipe for dashi stock, here’s one from Izakaya, a cookbook by Hideo Dekura. I recently cooked his page-32 recipe for cream cheese with wasabi.
1 litre water
15 g (8cm square) kelp (seaweed)
20 g bonito flakes
Wipe kelp with a dry cloth. Put it in a pot of water and leave for 30 minutes. Bring to a boil over a low heat. Just as it boils, remove the kelp. Add bonito flakes and remove from heat. Leave for 3 minutes and strain off over a bowl. Discard bonito flakes.
Here’s a delicious fish soup we enjoyed in Lijiang, China. I wonder if dashi stock would be a good base for it?