I tend to forget how much I like this soup and don’t make it frequently enough. The turnips and roasted sesame seeds give the soup an astringent, almost bitter quality that is brought back just a little bit by the broth, which is very slightly sweet. The small portion of greens that is added may seem like a minor touch, but because this soup is so austere, they play an important role in providing a touch of additional flavor variety. I like some of the more spicy or bitter greens such as mizuna or shungiku (a type of edible chrysanthemum), but spinach would be nice too. In this iteration of the soup, I added a pinch of Sichuan pepper to provide just a little bit of bite to the flavor. I think a pinch of nutmeg would also be a good, but slightly unconventional addition, although I haven’t tried it.
As with most Japanese style soups, this one uses dashi as its base. Dashi is a really excellent stock made from kelp and dried fish. It is rich, light and unexpectedly neutral in flavor. This Article provides guidance on making it yourself, which I really encourage. There is instant, granulated dashi stock available, which is a simpler option. I have tried the Hon Dashi Brand of instant stock and found it to be acceptable for basic use, but it lacked a lot of the richness than I can get by making the dashi from scratch. That said, instant is really cheap and convenient, especially if you do not make Japanese style soups often. Give it a try.
This soup was a great part of the Friday’s lunch. It’s slightly bitter flavor scheme complimented the toasty flavors of the Miso-Marinated Cod. The side that you see in the background is blanched green beans with a creamy sesame sauce, which I will probably write up tomorrow. This type of meal, meat with soup, rice, and at least one side, is a pretty common format for us. I find that I like a lot of variety in the types of dishes present in any given meal and this diversity makes the meal a lot more satisfying. Although the portion sizes of any individual part of the meal are quite small, together they make for a complete and filling experience.
- 12 oz. turnip, cut into ½ inch cubes (about 1 large or 2 medium)
- 3 Tbs. sesame seeds, white
- 1 small bunch greens, such as mizuna or shungiku
- 3½ cups dashi stock
- 1 Tbs. soy sauce
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. sugar
- 2 Tbs. sake
- ¼ tsp. Sichuan or sansho pepper, ground
- Roast sesame seeds in over medium-high heat until fragrant and browned. Grind in spice grinder and set aside.
- Blanch greens very briefly in boiling water to wilt them. Cool under running water, drain, coarsely chop and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, heat dashi, soy, salt, sugar, and sake over medium-high heat. Add turnips and simmer 5 to 6 minutes until turnips are just softened, but still firm.
- Place 1 Tbs of sesame seeds, a portion of turnips, ⅓ of the greens, and a pinch of Sichuan pepper in each bowl. To serve, fill each bowl with the hot dashi stock.