Japanese Clam Soup

By • March 1, 2014 • 0 Comments

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Author Notes: March 3rd is the "Peach Festival" (Momo no Sekku) in Japan. Peaches will be in full bloom in late March and early April (although it might be earlier as the climate is changing...), so it's about a month early for peach blossoms.

Then why the Peach Festival now? That's because the original Japanese calender was lunar calender and there is about a month of gap between the lunar calender and the current Gregorian calender that Japan uses since 1873 (some northern parts of Japan celebrate the Peach Festival on April 4th).

The Peach Festival is also "Girls' Day": a day to wish for the healthy growth of girls. At homes, we set up dolls that represent emperor and empress (for this, the day is also called "Dolls' Festival," or Hina-matsuri) and eat dishes such as:

Chirashi-zushi (sushi rice on a plate topped with variety of colorful ingredients)
Hishi-mochi (three-color, diamond-shaped mochi rice cake)
Hina-arare (small rice crackers)
Shiro-zake (white, sake-like liquore made of rice), or Ama-zake (non alcoholic sweet rice drink)
and Hamaguri (a type of clam) clear soup
Although "Hamaguri" clams are not available here, we can make the soup with regular clams.

This is a dish that you can enjoy the amazingly fragrant and savory broth the clams can give us, and also the power of sake (Japanese rice wine). One of the beauties of sake is that it erases the 'fishy' smell and enhances the 'umami' or savoriness (that's one of the reasons sake goes so well with Japanese food that often uses seafood). Often, white wine can substitute sake, but for this soup, I believe we need sake.

Finally, one seasoning tip: in order to give the broth perfect savoriness, give most (but not all) of the saltiness with salt, then finish it with a bit of soy sauce. Before adding salt, taste the broth, add a pinch of salt, taste again, and stop adding salt when it's just below the desired saltiness. Then complete it with a drop or two of soy sauce.
Kyoko Ide

Serves 2

  • 100 grams clams, soaked in 3% salt water (500ml water and 1 tablespoon salt) for a couple of hours and well cleaned
  • 1 x 1 inch konbu
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons sake
  • a few drops soy sauce
  • a few pieces broccoli raab flower for garnish (optional)
  1. If you are using the garnish: In a pot, boil a cup of water, add the broccoli raab flower, cover, and steam-boil it for a minute or so. Drain and set aside.
  2. Thank the clams and put them in a small pot, along with water, konbu, and sake. Start heating with medium-low heat.
  3. When the clams start to open, taste the broth, add a pinch of salt and taste again. If it needs more salt, add another pinch. Finish with a drop or two of soy sauce. Serve with the broccoli raab flower on top.
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