Besides seeing the cherry blossom trees in Japan, cooking Japanese clear soup with clams was a must do while we were visiting Japan this Spring. It is the simplest Japanese clear soup but it is packed with Umami flavour!
What is Suimono(Japanese clear soup)?
Suimono is Japanese clear soup which has been enjoyed by Japanese people for many years. Sui-mono translates to “sipping things”. Japanese clear soup “Suimono” condenses the philosophy of Washoku, which is registered as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of humanity. This Japanese clear soup with clams certainly gives you the ultimate experience of simple yet sophisticated Japanese umami flavour of Japanese nature.
Only One Main Ingredient – Asari Clams
The way to make clam clear soup is slightly different from typical Japanese clear soup because there is no need to make Dashi stock first. The main ingredient of this clear soup is clams and the distinctive umami flavour of clams will be extracted while they are cooked. So, it is important to start cooking by adding clams and a piece of kombu kelp into cold water.
Where to buy fresh Asari Clams?
Clams are known as “Asari” in Japanese. Manila clam is equivalent or same to the Asari clam that we use in Japan. In Brisbane, Aasari clams are called Vongole and it is very rare to see it sold fresh. Cooked vongole is sold at any Woolworths store but I recommend using fresh one if it is possible. If you have to use cooked one, it needs to be added at the end but I can not guarantee that same Umami flavour is intact in the soup. I have heard and seen they are readily available in Sydney. It seems that Manila clam is easy to get in USA. I believe vongole is Italian word and assume it is readily available in Italy too.
How to prepare fresh clams
In order to de-grit the clams, you need to create a natural environment for the clam to spit out sand. Clams are usually collected from salt water sand. The salt water contains about 3% of salt so for 200g of clams we need about 250ml (1 cup) of water and 7.5g of salt.
Make 3 % of salt water in a shallow container and spread out clams without over lapping each other. Cover with newspaper and leave it in a dark and cold place over night or at least 2-3 hours (I left it in the fridge, but if the temperature is too cold, they become less active).
Mitsuba is a Japanese herb often used as garnish for Chawan mushi, soups, and donburi (rice bowl dishes). Mitsuba is named after it’s shape of leaf – Mitsu (three) ba (leaves). Mitsuba comes in handy because of it’s distinctive refreshing aroma. If fresh Mitsuba is available, choose ones that are fresh green and brilliant in colour and not wilted. Wash and wrap with wet newspaper or kitchen paper and place it in a zip-lock bag. You can refrigerate if you have any left over, it will last for a few days.
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Also please leave a comment below if you know where you can get Asari (manila clams).
- Prepare the clams the night before. *1
- Wash the clams thoroughly under running water.
- Place the clams and kelp into water in a small saucepan over low heat. *2
- When small bubbles form and just about to boil, remove the kelp, and skim the scum off the soup.
- Add sake and soy sauce. *3
- When all the clams open, turn the heat off.
- Turn the heat off and serve them in small bowls.
- Garnish with Mitsuba.