Japanese soup ranges from a clear broth to thick stews filled with vegetables and noodles. The basis of most Japanese soups is the dashi which is a stock prepared from green kelp and fish along with shiitake mushrooms which provide the flavor for most of the soups. The soup is usually served as in tiny decorated bowls known as owens which is placed on the right hand side of the diner. Tradition demands that it should be opposite to the rice bowl. Unlike the Westerners, the Japanese prefer to serve soup at the end of a meal along with rice and pickles.
The miso or fermented soybean paste is another favorite flavoring agent which is added to the vegetable, fish or meat broth just before serving. It is usually consumed during breakfast in order to begin the day in a nutritious way. More elaborate variations of the miso soup may also be served for lunch or dinner.
The soup in Japan is meant to be drunk from the bowl while the solid foods within it are usually lifted out with the aid of chopsticks.
Japanese Soup Recipes: Ingredients and Preparation Overview
There are a number of basic ingredients used for preparing soups in Japan. The primary ingredients and preparation processes of the different types of soups are:-
- Dashi- This is the base of most soups and can be prepared by boiling konbu, green kelps along with katsuobushi ( pieces of bonito tuna), niboshi (dried sardine) and shiitake mushrooms. The vegetables and fish along with the other solid ingredients are added after the dashi is prepared.
- Miso- The fermented soybean is available as a powder in most stores across Japan and Asian specialty stores in USA. It is added to the main soup after the heat has been turned off. It is usually served along with negi (green onions), tofu and seaweed based dishes.
- Chawanmushi- This is a savory version of the egg custard. It is liquid in consistency and prepared in the same way as a custard. However, it is not allowed to set and includes vegetables, poultry and seafood and is served immediately after the preparation in special cups with lids.
Japanese Soup Recipes
- Kenchinjiru- This is a miso based pork soup favored by the Buddhist monks in the ancient times. The vegan version is equally popular with the main flavor being instilled by boiling shiitake mushrooms and gobo, the Japanese term for burdock. It is a hearty soup and can be a complete meal by itself.
- Suimono- This is a clear soup, subtly flavored and can be literally translated as “things to sip”. The mitsuba and yuzu (lemon rind) are used to prepare the soup which is served in laquer bowls with the ingredients cut into beautiful shapes.
- Zoni- This is also a clear dashi based soup served with vegetables and rice cakes known as mocha. It is a part of the New Year’s celebration in Japan.
The Sumo wrestlers of Japan do not eat fish based soups which are considered to be unlucky as the ingredients have no arms or legs.