Washoku Explorers: Superb soup made with Toyama's fish
November 6, 2017
A trio of culinary experts from the United States and Britain took a three-day journey to Japan’s Toyama Prefecture, and deep into the heart of washoku – Japanese cuisine. Here they visited a traditional tofu factory, and learned all about konbu kelp, the king of umami!
Along the way, our three washoku explorers teamed up for a cook-off against a group of local residents. With the task of creating a delicious soup using local Toyama seafood, the trio had their chance to shine in the kitchen!
Facing the Sea of Japan, Toyama Prefecture boasts some of the deepest waters in the country. Seafood-rich Toyama Bay alone is home to some 600 varieties of fish, such as sea bream and yellowtail. But even in this "natural fish tank,” as it is sometimes called, seafood has fallen out of favor with children in recent years. Faced with this problem, concerned Toyama locals enlisted our three experts to create a new seafood dish that children would like, pitting them against a group of locals in a cross-cultural fish soup showdown!
For their soup, our trio settled on a clam and white fish chowder. In Western cuisine, chowder is beloved by adults and children alike. Casual, but still a little special, it’s like eating at a cozy diner. Chef Naomi says that another reason they chose this style of soup is because the taste is so much different from Japanese food.
Meanwhile, the Japanese team created "ryoshi jiru," a traditional Japanese fish soup made with offcuts not generally found in the market. It is a dynamic way to enjoy every part of the fish without waste. Any kind of fish is okay – the more you add, the more dashi emerges, and the more delicious it becomes.
Now, let's check out the video and see how each team fared!
It was surprising that even using the same Toyama seafood, the teams came up with such different dishes. Both soups were so tasty that it was hard to choose between the two! While creating their soup, our three explorers came to understand some key differences between Japanese and Western cuisines. Western cooking involves many steps and processes, layering flavors to make something delicious. On the other hand, Japanese food typically takes much less time to prepare in the kitchen. However, it can take a long time to prepare the konbu kelp and katsuobushi (skipjack shavings) that make up dashi, not to mention miso and soy sauce. They realized that Japanese food owes its simple, deep taste to the time and effort spent on the base ingredients, the starting point of flavor.
Here, the locals teach us how to make ryoshi jiru. There are no strict rules about the amount of each ingredient, so please adjust according to your preference.
Toyama's special ryoshi jiru
・several kinds of fish (parrot fish, cod, and gurnard were used this time)
・konbu kelp for dashi
1. Once you remove the scales and guts, chop up the fish with the bones still attached. You can use the head as well.
<Note – any kind of fish is okay! Enjoy changing up the flavor with different fish.>
2. Use the konbu kelp to make dashi. (Put in water, boil, then remove.)
3. Add a pinch of salt to the pot of dashi from , then add the fish all at once.
4. Skim off the scum after boiling.
5. Add a little sake, and dissolve some miso into the soup.
6. After dishing it out, sprinkle with chopped Japanese leek.
Text: Ayaka Miyamoto
Sakana no Eki Ikuji
Ikuji Naka-ku 265, Kurobe-shi, Toyama Prefecture, Japan
Naomi is the owner/chef of a restaurant in Portland, a US city with a reputation for good food. She's known for her innovative use of local ingredients.
A chef at one of the best seafood restaurants in New York, Erik is in charge of researching and developing new menu items.
A food writer based in both London and California, Susan also cooks for her own take-out meals business.