So I've been having almost constant cravings for Japanese food, and unfortunately, really good Japanese food is a bit of a drive in either direction. So I thought, why not learn how to make it? So I got a couple of books and I am going through them and teaching myself some Japanese dishes. The books are Japanese Light, by Kimiko Barber and Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh.
The first thing I've been making is soup. The first soup I made was a very basic and simple chicken soup.
There's not much to this soup, just the broth and the chicken, but you could easily add some noodles or vegetables to the final product for something heartier. If you just want a simple meal, then this is very nice with some rice and a vegetable.
I'm not going to include the recipe, since this is part of the book and so you really should purchase the book for the recipes. Instead, I'll just describe and show you some pictures. I will include a recipe for a basic dashi that you can use as the base of any soup.
Above is the broth I made first as it cooked. It is similar to a normal chicken broth, except that there are some Japanese ingredients as well: kombu and a shiitake mushroom. Kombu is a kind of seaweed and it helps add a rich, oceany, umami flavor to the broth.
Here is the finished product, which I ate with some rice and cucumber salad and sake. It made a nice simple meal, which what I usually like to eat at home.
Dashi is the basic broth for Japanese soups. Dashi is used in many things that show up in Japanese cuisine besides soup as well, which is why dashi is the first place I start when beginning to learn Japanese cooking.
There are different types of dashi broth, including vegetarian and even a non-cook "cheater's version." The version I am including here is the most popular dashi that can be used for almost everything. It is incredibly easy to make provided you have the time to let things sit and come back to them every once in a while.
Number One Dashi Broth (by Kimiko Barber)
- 1 postcard-sized piece of konbu (kelp seaweed)
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 3/4 oz. dried bonito flakes (about a handful)
Take out the konbu when it begins to float to the surface and a few small bubbles appear at the edge of the saucepan. Pour in 1/2 cup of cold water followed by the bonito flakes. Turn up the heat slightly and cook until the liquid returns to a gentle boil, but do not let it come to full boil. Turn off the heat. Let the bonito flakes settle to the bottom and then strain the broth through a fine sieve lined with a piece of paper towel.