A healthy soothing miso soup that features lake smelts!
Traditional 5 minute Dashi Broth Recipe:
Kombu seaweed is the traditional choice for making a dashi broth. Kombu is sweeter than wakame. Wakame seaweed has more of a savory flavor and it is good for making dashi broth too. Dried kombu requires soaking it in water, till it becomes reconstituted and soft. I usually buy salt packed semi dried wakame seaweed that reconstitutes in minutes. Salt packed wakame is actually still alive. Wakame can be served with the soup, while kombu is almost always discarded.
Good fresh dried bonito filets for shaving are hard to find outside of Japan. Bonito is not really a desirable fish outside of Japan, asia and the mediterranean region. Bonito is often sold as cheap canned tuna. Packaged pre-shaved dried bonito is the standard modern choice and they are easy to work with.
Dried sardines or sun dried anchovies are often added to the bonito flakes by Japanese cooks. Many traditionalists say that only dried bonito flakes are used for making a 5 minute dashi broth. Traditionalists say that sun dried anchovies or dried sardines are only used to make a 10 minute dashi broth. Dried bonito flakes are not supposed to added to a 10 minute dashi, according to many chefs. A 10 minute dashi can be made with many non traditional items like fresh shellfish, dried shellfish or a variety of fish.
Many chefs soak the dried fish in cold water, before cooking. Many chefs say to not soak the dried bonito flakes, because a cleaner, more delicate flavor is best. The same applies to dried sardines or dried anchovies.
Dashi broths are almost always strained before being turned into miso soup. The solids from the broth are discarded or used to make another recipe. Many nontraditional dashi broths are better when they are not strained, because the meat is desirable and it is served with the soup.
The 5 minute and 10 minute dashi broth rules are modern standards, but the rules can be bent. The history of dashi broth goes back thousands of years. The standards of making dashi have evolved through time, and they have also recurred. When someone says that you are making dashi broth incorrectly, question what age of Japanese history that their recipe is based upon! Some families have been making dashi broths a certain way for thousands of years. Kelp farmers make dashi their own way with fresh kelp, while those families who were sold dried kelp through history tend to make dashi a different way.
Basically, there is no correct way or incorrect way to make a dashi broth. Every method and every combination has been tried and retried through history. Those who are into strict disciplines tend to have the strongest opinions as to what is correct for dashi making, but a strong opinion is nothing more than a strong opinion! Conveying an opinion in a strong manner does not make an opinion correct.
In the end, it is the chef or home cook that decides what is the best dashi making method and recipe. As long as the flavor and nutrition goal is a achieved, that is all that is important. Some like a muddy rich dashi, while others prefer a clean clear elegant dashi. It is all just a matter of taste.
I had the ingredients on hand to create this miso soup recipe. Deboned lake smelts have a very gentle clean whitefish flavor and they are a sustainable freshwater fish that can be farmed. 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. That is something to keep in mind, if you do not want to waste expensive gas traveling to a fish market on a daily basis. A big bag of frozen smelts goes a long way!
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 field grain flavor of alfalfa sprouts adds a nice contrast to a miso soup.
Bring 2 3/4 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pot over high heat.
Add 1 small handful of dried shaved bonito flakes. (katsuobushi)
Add 1 small handful chopped reconstituted kombu seaweed or chopped rinsed salt packed wakame seaweed.
Boil the dashi broth for 5 minutes.
Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a clean saucepot.
Smelts, Alfalfa Sprout and Snow Pea Miso Soup:
Just like dashi broth, there are many traditional and non traditional ways to make miso soup. The dashi broth is usually flavored with delicate amounts of sesoning, 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 for most of my recipes. Light colored miso paste is good too. The choice of miso paste is up to the chef or home cook.
Traditional and nontraditional ingredients can be added to the basic miso soup. I have posted many miso soup recipes and many have interesting themes. One thing that I never do, is to use instant miso soup! I am a chef and I tend to make my miso soups with a goal in mind, so the type of dashi broth that I chose to make for the miso soup has to be part of the recipe. Traditional dashi broths are good for both traditional miso soups and creative nontraditional miso soups. Nontraditional dashi broth are better for creative miso soups. Those are the guidelines that seem to work the best.
Place the sauce pot with the strained dashi broth over medium low heat.
Add 1 pinch of minced garlic.
Add 1 pinch of minced ginger.
Add 4 drops of soy sauce.
Add 4 drops of rice vinegar.
Add 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of miso paste.
Whisk the miso paste into the broth.
Add 4 deboned lake smelts.
Gently simmer the miso soup, till the smelts are almost fully cooked.
Add 2 or 3 snow peas that are cut into very thin strips.
Place a small mound of alfalfa sprouts on the center of a soup bowl.
Place the smelts around the sprouts in the soup bowl, so they point toward the rim of the bowl.
Gently pour the broth and snow peas around the sprouts and smelts.
Sprinkle a few thin bias cut slices of green onion tops on the center of the soup.
This is a very nice and healthy light Japanese miso soup! The smelts have a very delicate white fish flavor. The alfalfa sprouts add a nice flavor and texture to this creative miso soup. Yum! ... Shawna