Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Harumi's autumnal Japan 2: Hearty shiitake and ginger broth

Continuing with selections from Haru-mi magazine, here is a hearty shiitake mushroom and ginger broth with the surprising addition of minced chicken. Besides citrus, especially my beloved lemons, I don't think there's a flavour that does it for me as much as ginger. I really love the stuff. You might not have thought about putting it in soup before, but it really warming. This this broth will take you right through to winter.

At my place, dashi is made from bought "dashi packs"--teabag-like sachets that you just add to cold water, bring to the boil and leave to steep off the heat for a couple of minutes. Granulated dashi is also available but as it is already seasoned, you may need to exercise caution with the soy/salt if you use the granules instead. At a push, I suppose a chicken stock cube (and much reworking of the soy sauce) may also work, but the flavour profile would be totally different.

Usukuchi soy sauce (meaning "light flavoured") is a bit of a misnomer. The salt content is actually higher than regular Japanese soy, but the colour is lighter, so it is used when dark colouring is not desired. You are probably not going to want to buy a bottle just for this recipe, so go ahead and use regular Japanese soy. I won't tell if you don't.

Katakuriko is dogtooth violet starch powder in English, apparently (no, I've never heard of it either!). Cornstarch would work just as well. You want to just take the "liquidity" off the broth, not turn it into a sauce, so use with caution (g).

Hearty shiitake and ginger broth

Serves 4

100 g chicken mince
2 dried shiitake
1 knob of fresh ginger [S: or to taste]
4 cups (800 ml) dashi
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp usukuchi soy sauce [S: or regular Japanese soy sauce]
1 tbsp cooking sake
1/3 tsp salt [S: optional]
2 tsp katakuriko dissolved in 2 tsp water

1 Rinse shiitake and reconstitute in water. Gently squeeze out most of the water, then cut off the stalks and slice the top into 1 mm strips. Peel the fresh ginger and slice into matchsticks about 3 cm long.

2 In a saucepan, bring the dashi, mirin, usukushi soy sauce, sake and salt (if using) to the boil.

3 Place the minced chicken in a medium bowl. Pour 1 cup of the dashi mixture over the chicken, while quickly breaking up the meat with cooking chopsticks or a wooden spoon.

4 Retur the chicken-dashi mixture to the saucepan and return to the boil, removing the scum that forms. Add the sliced shiitake and ginger and cook for 1 min.

5 Thicken the soup with the katakuriko and water, then ladle into warmed bowls.


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