Japan. How do I even begin to describe my first time here?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve traveled from sprawling Tokyo to sleepy Tokoname, a small city in Central Japan known best for their ceramics. I’ve watched robots battle, successfully asked for directions in Japanese, become a local sensation on account of my rather large, red beard, and had a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony with a master potter.

But like most things, I always see my experiences through my food.

Since arriving in Japan, I’ve eaten everything I can get my hands on from Michelin-starred sushi KANESAKA, to fried fugu fish (blowfish), matcha everything, yakitori, soba, ramen, udon, and way too much 7/11 onigiri.

Needless to say, Japan is a food culture.

My favorite meals so far have been the most traditional ones. Less is definitely more, and traditional Japanese cuisine pays homage to the locality and seasonality of an ingredient with refined but simple preparations that use different colors, shapes, glazes, and textures. Think tomatoes at their peak. All you need is just a pinch of salt and some good olive oil.

Osuimono is one of those dishes. Considered the other basic Japanese soup (miso soup being the first), osuimono is a very light broth that highlights the essence of an ingredient (usually seafood). And in this case, that ingredient is briny clams.

The broth is almost too simple to be so good. Clams are poached in water, kombu and sake, and then seasoned with sauce sauce to create an umami-packed soup that rivals stocks that have been simmered for hours.

Sometimes, simplicity is elegance.

Osuimono
Osuimono
Osuimono
Osuimono
Osuimono
Osuimono
Osuimono

What worked: Easy introduction to more traditional Japanese cuisine.

What didn’t: Some of the ingredients may be hard to find in your local grocery store, but should be available at most Asian grocers.

Know this: Osuimono is a very light broth and shouldn’t be weighed down with too many ingredients or too much soy sauce.

Osuimono (Clear Dashi Soup with Clams)

By Evan Kalman
Serves 2 or 3

Ingredients

  • 26 oz (about 3 1/3 cups) water
  • 1 piece kombu (5 cm on each side)
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) sake
  • 300 g hamaguri clams (or cockles)
  • Usukuchi soy sauce (Japanese light soy sauce) to taste
  • a handful of himeji mushrooms (or thinly sliced matsutake or shiitake)
  • thinly sliced scallions

Steps

Place the clams in a bowl filled with cool tap water and let sit for 20 minutes. During this time, the clams will spit out the sand from their shells. Just before cooking, remove each clam from the water and scrub it clean to remove any outer grit. Your hands or a vegetable brush works well here.

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, kombu, and sake. Add the clams cook over medium heat until the clams have opened. Turn off the heat, remove the clams, and divide them among two or three soup bowls, discarding any unopened clams. Top the clams with a few thinly sliced mushrooms and scallions.

Skim the foam from the dashi and add the usukuchi soy sauce to taste, then fill each bowl with the hot broth and serve.

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