Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lake Smelts, Alfalfa Sprouts and Snow Pea Miso Soup

     A Healthy Soothing Miso Soup That Features Lake Smelts!

     Dashi Broth Information
     Kombu Seaweed is the traditional top choice for making a dashi broth.  Kombu is sweeter than Wakame Seaweed and Kombu contains a high percentage of natural MSG.  Dried kombu requires soaking it in water, till it is reconstituted and soft.  Kombu is almost always discarded after the dashi broth is made.

     Wakame Seaweed has more of a savory flavor and it is also a traditional choice for making dashi broth.  For some miso soups, the Wakame flavor tastes better.  I usually buy Salt Packed Dried Wakame Seaweed.  This style of Wakame reconstitutes in minutes.  Salt Packed Wakame is actually still alive and it semi soft like seaweed that has partially dried on the surf's edge.  Wakame can be served with the soup, so it does not need to be discarded after the dashi broth is made.

     Katsuobushi is pickled dried shaved Bonito flakes.  Bonito is also called Skip Jack Tuna.  Good fresh whole Katsuobushi filets for shaving are hard to find outside of Japan.  Katsuobushi is best when it is shaved just before making the dashi, because more aromatic flavor is available.
     Packages of Pre-Shaved Dried Bonito Flakes are easy to find in Asian food markets.  Packaged Shaved Katsuobushi are easy to work with.

     Katsuobushi is not the only choice of fish for making a dashi both.  Sun Dried Sardines (Iroki) or Sun Dried Anchovies (Ikan Bilis) are often used to make dashi broth.  Sun Dried Anchovies create a very rich seafood flavor and they do not need to be discarded after the dashi broth finishes boiling.
     The type of dried fish determines how long a dashi broth is boiled.  Dried Bonito Flake Dashi Broth is boiled for only 5 minutes.  Sun Dried Anchovy or Sun Dried Sardines Dashi Broth is boiled for 10 minutes.
     A 10 minute dashi broth can also be made with items like dried shellfish or a variety of smoked dried fish.  Dried Shrimp Dashi Broth tastes rich and it has a pink color when it finishes.

     Dashi broths are almost always strained before being turned into miso soup.  The solids from the broth are discarded or boiled a second time to flavor another recipe.  Dashi broths that are not strained are usually made with items like Wakame and Sun Dried Anchovies, because these items still look nice after cooking.

     It is the chef or home cook that decides what is the best choice of dashi broth flavor for the application.  It is also the cook's choice as to how the dashi broth is made.  Some Japanese families have dashi recipes that have been made the same way for thousands of years that may not conform to the standard dashi broth making rules or boiling time limits.  The common goal of any dashi broth recipe is to create a good umami flavor.  This is all that really counts.

     Today's Recipe
     I had the ingredients on hand to create today's miso soup recipe.  Simple combinations of ingredients work best when creating new miso soup recipes.
     Deboned Lake Smelts have a very gentle whitefish flavor and they are a sustainable freshwater fish.  In this age of rapidly depleting ocean resources, Smelts may become much more popular.  Fresh Smelts freeze very nicely and almost no quality is lost by freezing.  A big bag of frozen Smelts goes a long way and the price is nice!
     Alfafa sprouts are usually only thought as being a fresh salad ingredient.  They do make a nice additive to soups, but they must be added just before serving, because they are delicate.  The earthy green flavor of alfalfa sprouts adds a nice contrast to today's miso soup

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large bowl of miso soup!

     Katsuobushi Wakame Dashi Broth:         
     Bring 2 3/4 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of dried shaved bonito flakes.  (katsuobushi)
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped rinsed salt packed wakame seaweed.
     Boil the dashi broth for 5 minutes.
     Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a clean sauce pot.  (There should be about 2 1/4 cups of broth total.)
     Smelts, Alfalfa Sprout and Snow Pea Miso Soup:
     A strained dashi broth is usually flavored with delicate amounts of seasoning, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and onion or shallot.
     The temperature of the broth must be low, when the miso paste is added.  To much heat causes undesirable flavor changes in miso paste!  
     There are many styles and colors of miso paste.  I prefer red miso paste for most of my recipes.  Light colored miso paste is good too.  The choice of miso paste color is up to the chef or home cook.  
     Step 1:  Place the sauce pot with the strained dashi broth over medium low heat.  (2 1/4 cups)
     Add 1/8 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 2 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of miso paste.  (White Miso Paste was used for the soup in the photos.)
     Whisk the miso paste into the broth.
     Step 3:  Add 4 deboned lake smelts.
     Gently simmer the miso soup, till the smelts are almost fully cooked.
     Step 4:  Add 2 or 3 julienne sliced snow peas.
     Simmer till the snow peas are tender and the smelts are fully cooked.

     Place a small mound of alfalfa sprouts on the center of a shallow soup bowl.
     Use tongs to place the smelts on the sprouts, so they point outward from center.
     Slowly pour the broth and snow peas around the sprouts and smelts.
     Sprinkle a few thin bias sliced green onion top slivers on the center of the soup.
     This is a very nice and healthy light Japanese miso soup!  

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