Thursday, November 8, 2007

Japanese-inspired: Daikon Konbu soup

I have an all-time undying love for Japanese food: from sashimi to sushi, from gomae to bento boxes and donburi, or even from miso soup to okinomiyaki, my face would light up at the sight of my so-called comfort food: Japanese cuisine. There is something about it that captures me-- maybe it is the simplicity and subtlety of the cuisine that accentuates the natural flavours of the ingredients, or maybe it is the elaborate preparation and meticulous presentation that hides behind each dish. Either way Japanese cuisine is something I turn to constantly for comfort and warmth. (yummy!)

I am utterly fortunate to be living in a multicultural city like Vancouver; with its huge Asian population I can easily get an abundance of Asian products and food: from inexpensive sushi to sauces, noodles, and all the other goodies that can be found in Asian specialty supermarkets.

I was craving for a bowl of broth-based soup that night as it had been a rather depressing, rainy day. So what could make me feel happier than a bowl of steaming daikon kombu soup? I adore the natural sweetness that kombu and daikon add to the soup, and topped with some wakame it is the perfect and versatile brothy soup that can be turned into the soup base for shabushabu (Japanese hotpot), oden noodles, miso soup, steamed vegetables, even Chinese stir fry.

First, the ingredients:

Dashi* for Soup Base
This is basically the Japanese version of chicken bouillon. I made it from konbu and bonito flakes. Simply boil a pot of water, turn of the heat, and put a slice of 4 inch konbu and a handful of bonito flakes into the boiling water. Cover the pot and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then remove the flakes and kombu. Voila, the soup base is done!

If you do not have the above ingredients, don't worry! You can:

1) Use instant Dashi powder sold at Asian specialty stores

2)Dilute the chicken stock- about 70% water, 30% stock to make sure that the soup doesn't end up tasking like chicken soup.

3) Use vegetable broth.

Wakame (Dried seaweed)

1 tablespoon is enough for a pot of soup that serves 4. Soak it in water prior to cooking and let it expand.

Or I use seaweed (fresh) and add as much as I like

Daikon and Carrots


Put the daikon and carrot into a pressure cooker. Add enough soup base so that it covers the daikon and carrots (cut into big chunks)

I just use the pressure cooker to make the soup. If you don't have a pressure cooker, add the dashi soup base, daikon and carrots, and turn down heat. Stir frequently.

After the soup is done ( when the daikon and carrots have become soft and tender), add the drained seaweed (and tofu if you like). Let cook for a minute on low/medium heat. Turn off heat. It is ready!

Other extra something-something to add to the soup: sliced shiitake mushrooms, seafood, fish cake, shirataki noodles, konnyaku, and just about anything you like really.

I served it with Shirataki Noodles and miso dressing

1 cup shirataki noodles (or noodles of your choice)

Wash the shirataki noodles to get rid of the smell. Cook for 5 minutes in a pot of boiling water. Remove from pot, and immediately put into a bowl of ice-cold water ( so the noodles retain the chewy-ness and texture)

Miso Dressing

This is a great recipe that I got from a really cute old Japanese couple when I visited their shop located on Alma St. When they heard that I was really into Japanese food they gave me a couple of recipes that I am eager to try out. This is truly authentic, and so easy to make. The best thing is that it tastes exactly like the dressing at any great Japanese restaurant. You can use it in green salads, cold noodles, even marinade for seafood, poultry, and so on!.

2 tablespoons dark organic miso
3 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
a few drops of sesame oil ( just for the aroma)
brown sugar or honey ( this is optional: if you prefer it sweeter)
roasted sesame seeds ( white or black)
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
black pepper to taste
a drop of mirin

Mix all ingredients except mirin and sesame oil in a food processor until smooth. Then add the mirin and sesame oil. Keep in fridge.


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