Writer: Yumiko Ishimaru
There are various seafood broth soups across Japan. In this article, I would like to introduce 2 kinds of soups that are very popular among Japanese, and how to bring out umami from each of them.
“OSUIMONO (clear soup) and USHIOJIRU (salty broth)”
The first one is a “Osuimono” with golden broth from the fish head and bony part. That gives a rich flavor and profoundness to the broth. You can buy a whole fish and cut it up, or have it filleted at the fish store. Some people buy only head and bony part just to make a broth. Cut the heads and bony parts to size, place on strainer and sprinkle salt to remove excess fluid.
The second onen is called “Ushiojiru”. Sea bream, a main ingredient for USHIOJIRU, is prepared in the same way as osuimono. The head is usually cut half and this is called “pear cut” as it is a straight cut like when you split pear in half with a knife.
Even a very fresh fish has a raw odor (fishy smell). To take out this odor, pour plenty of boiling water on to the fish body in strainer until the color turns into white. This method is called “Shimofuri”, and it can be applied to any kinds of fish you use. You should also do shimofuri process for the fish’s head too. The color turns into white, rinse it in the ice water. Key to make a good broth is to remove the scales and blood in the head completely.
To make clear Osuimono using a fish like sea bass, tile fish and sand borer, firstly do a preparation described above. Simmer the head and bony parts with salt, soy sauce and sake in a dashi soup, removing scum carefully to bring out umami flavor. This is the essential process to make clear and tasty soup.
For Ushiojiru, major ingredients are sea bream head or clams as their rich flavor makes good stock. The main ingredients of Ushiojiru such as sea bream or clams are called “Wandane” and the taste is a bit salty. Key to make good Ushiojiru is to simmer over low heat to bring out good flavor of sea bream. This is a very simple soup using only salt as a seasoning to maximize the taste and flavor of ingredients.
In Japan, soup is served with “Suikuchi”, a seasonal garnish to enjoy the flavor and aroma of each season. Yuzu (aromatic citron), mitsuba (Japanese honewort), myoga (Japanese ginger), leaf bud or thinly sliced ginger is added depending on the season. By adding such garnish, we can enjoy seasonal flavor throughout the year.
Being seasoned with very simple ingredients, careful preparation determines the taste. Seafood broth has a different attractiveness from what katsuobushi (bonito) or kombu (seaweed) has.
Being surrounded by the sea, we have various ingredients and cooking method across Japan, and such cooking method is based on continuous efforts and techniques made by those who have gone before us.