Now that temperatures have been dipping into the 40s and low 50s at night, I've been making soups as often as I can. Sometimes they're a one-dish meal, other times they're just an appetizer. But even if the soup is just to whet my appetite for the main course, it helps to start your meal off with something warm and soothing.
I often order miso soup in restaurants, but seldom make it at home. Dashi, or Japanese soup stock, isn't too hard to make, but gathering up the kombu and bonito flakes requires a trip to an Asian market, which isn't always convenient.
But last week I was flipping through Japanese Farm Food, a beautiful new cookbook of simple Japanese cooking using sustainable, farm-fresh food. I wanted to try almost every recipe in there, but an easy one that caught my eye right away was the Miso Soup with Clams. Instead of using dashi, the soup gets its flavor from the natural brininess of the clams and their juices, which, combined with sake, form the base.
The soup requires few ingredients, just miso paste, clams, sake, and mitsuba, or Japanese wild parsley, as a garnish. You can find mitsuba in Japanese grocery stores, but you can also substitute with scallions.
The Miso Soup with Clams takes only 10 minutes or so to make. It's great an an accompaniment to sushi, noodles, or a precursor to meaty dishes like Japanese beef and rice, steak teriyaki, or braised pork belly.
Try it out and let me know what you think!
Miso Soup with Clams
Makes 2 large bowls or 4 to 6 small bowls
- 1 pound Manila or small Littleneck clams
- 1/2 cup sake
- 4 cups water
- 3 tablespoons red miso paste
- 1 small bunch mitsuba, leaves removed, or substitute 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- Scrub the clams in several changes of cold water to remove any excess sand.
- In a medium pot, combine the clams with the sake. Cover and bring to boil over high heat. Once the clams start to open (about 1 to 2 minutes), add the water, cover, and bring to boil again. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover and discard any clams that are not open. Carefully stir in the miso paste and continue stirring until the paste is fully dissolved.
- Ladle the soup and clams into individual bowls. Garnish with a few mitsuba leaves or sliced scallions and serve.