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on the menu : japanese garden fish “chowder”

Posted Dec 29 2011 5:26am


Here in the States, we have broths and stocks of the vegetable, chicken, and beef variety.  These are often made from a multitude of ingredients with the intention of drawing out every last bit of flavor from that chicken bone or onion peel.  In Japan, we have something called dashi.  Dashi is a simple sea stock that has a big game despite its simplicity.

Dashi is incredibly subtle but watch out – it sneaks up behind you and intensifies the flavor of any food it touches.  The magic is in the konbu (sea kelp) and katsuo-bushi (bonito fish flakes).  I’ve learned that while the process of making dashi is simple, timing and temperature make all the difference between a good and not-so-good stock.  Letting the konbu sit in cold water is key as is not letting the water come to a boil.

I call this soup a “chowder” not because it encompasses qualities of richness from cream or milk, but rather, for its uncanny ability to speak notes of comfort.  A quintessentially perfect soup for winter that simply makes you… happy.  A dish that warms your heart and fills your body with only foods that are good for you.  As with many traditional Japanese dishes, the flavors are meant to be subtly complex.  Vegetables aplenty with hints of seafood seeping through every bite – what’s not to love?

PS – did you end up with leftovers?  Forego the boring old re-heating and transform this soup into a beautiful Japanese risotto.  Stay tuned for the recipe!


  • White Fish (1/2 lb)
  • Daikon (1)
  • Burdock Root (2)
  • Carrots (2)
  • Shiitake Mushrooms (Handful)
  • Scallions (2)
  • Snow Pea Shoots (Large handful)
  • Ginger (1-inch knob)
  • Organic Firm Tofu (12 oz)
  • Roasted Sesame Seeds (1 tbsp)
  • Konbu (40 square inches)
  • Katsuo-Bushi (1 cup loosely packed)
  • Water (8 1/2 cups)
  • Mirin (1 tsp)
  • Soy Sauce (2 tbsp)
  • Ponzu (1 tbsp)


  1. Prep the dashi first. Place the konbu in a pot with cold water.  Let the konbu soak in cold water for 15 minutes.
  2. Once the 15 minutes are up, turn the heat on medium.  Watch the pot as you’ll want to remove it from the heat as soon as you see small bubbles begin to break on the surface of the stock.
  3. Add the katsuo-bushi to the pot and let them soak for about 4 minutes.
  4. Strain the stock through a cloth or coffee-filter-lined strainer.
  5. Once the stock is complete, set it aside while you prep the fish and vegetables.
  6. Clean the fish, make sure it’s free of bones, and cut into bite-sized pieces.  Let it marinade in a bit of soy sauce and cooking sake while you prep the vegetables.
  7. Peel the daikon, quarter it, and dice up into equal-sized half moons.  Set aside.
  8. Peel and slice up the burdock root diagonally.  Place the slices in cold water and let them soak.
  9. Peel and slice up the carrot diagonally as you did with the burdock root.
  10. Wash, clean, and slice up the shiitake mushrooms.
  11. Finely chop up the scallions.
  12. Chop up the snow pea shoots in half.
  13. Peel the ginger and grate it down to a paste.
  14. Dice up the tofu into small bite-size pieces.
  15. Place the stock back onto your stove top and raise the heat to medium.  Add the fish, prepped veggies, grated ginger, tofu, and sesame seeds to the pot.  Stir to combine.
  16. Pour in the soy sauce, ponzu, and mirin and continue to stir.
  17. Before the soup can come to a full boil, lower the heat and cover. Let the soup simmer for at least 25 minutes.

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