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Sake Soup!

March 3, 2011

Well not quite, but very close..

I’m sorting through my pictures from Hokkaido trip with mom. There should be a few posts on that coming out, eventually.

My mom returned to US and I’m cooking for myself again. Today’s recipe is from here, called Kasujuru, and this is the third time I’m attempting to replicate it. And third time is the charm as they say because the first and second ended up as edible failures.

This recipe is very interesting. It uses regular Dashi stock at its base as most Japanese soups do. It introduces sake kasu, which are lees leftover from sake production. KyotoFoodie gives a good description of what this ingredient is and what it looks like. Plain sake and sweet sake are both used extensively in Japanese cuisine but this is something different, leftovers, something that could be viewed as waste. It totally enticed me into trying this winter soup. I had some difficulties finding this special secret ingredient in the supermarket but it turned out to be in the refrigerated section next to tofu, looking rather dull.

Now, the Japan Times recipe calls for 200 grams of this stuff, and on my first attempt I halved the recipe and put 100 grams of it, which turned out to be way way too much. All the veggies were overwhelmed by it. It’s possible my store-bought sake kasu was compressed a great deal making it more concentrated than fresh version.

The salmon used in this recipe is the salted one (if you recall I mistakingly fried this one upon my arrival to Japan). This time around the salt is supposed to diffuse into the broth. Sake kasu is not salty so a little help from salmon and miso paste is necessary.

The mad formulator in me doesn’t want to settle for standard recipe, however. I just have to mess with it, make it my own or something like that. So the second time I made it, I decreased the amount of sake kasu, which was good, but I added seaweed-flavored konnyaku. What a mistake! This page gives a decent introduction to this Japanese ingredient and mentions the perfect sense to use it alongside daikon or other harty vegetables.  However, in this soup it turned into a mush of seaweed flakes, altered the taste and ruined the white appearance from sake kasu.  Damn. Fail #2. You would not want to see a picture of that, trust me. Maybe it wasn’t the right konnyaku…. I’ll just try koniak (cognac) next time and I won’t notice the taste difference.

The third time was finally a success! I did not deviate too much from the recipe, just made it a little low cal by deleting potatoes. I found gobo, or burdock root (the first time I found something else, which wasn’t supposed to be in the soup). This is a slender dirty root but is quite nice in this soup. Daikon and carrots were nice too, full of their own flavor. The amount of compressed sake kasu necessary for say, three bowls of soup, was 50 grams for me. The flavor of this soup is very interesting, delicious once made correctly.

The decoration on this soup is supposed to be mitsuba, or Japanese parsley. I haven’t discovered it yet so I just put leftover lettuce shreds with some scallions. Worked well for me. 🙂

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