February 24, 2015
Umami- Its that ambiguous taste of whimsical flavour that you can’t really put your finger on.. not sweet, not sour, not salty, not bitter even- but rather a perfect balance of almost all, with a touch more saltiness. The word itself is of Japanese origin and simply means (Uma) ‘Delicious’- (mi) ‘taste’.
The usual weekend run to the fish market had stirred up an intense craving of seafood soup. It evolved from being a lemongrass and coriander prawn soup, to a prawn and crab soup, to a lobster and crab bisque even. Another march around the isles of the fish market and I still couldn’t get my mind to make a choice already! That spark… my tastebuds weren’t being aroused. I began to worry as I made my third patrol around the premises eyeballing every stall.. clams, flathead lobsters, all kinds of fish… they were disappearing fast. At this point, even the fish mongers stopped calling out to me to buy their “prized catch”. Think! Think! And then it happened.. my source of inspiration quickly flashed in my head. My tastebuds tingled at the corner of my mouth as I reminded myself of a miso soup (although vegetarian), that I recently ate at ‘The Sky’ restaurant in the Golden Tulip Hotel; my favourite Korean place. The taste of the mildly salty slivers of seaweed, the light crunch of black fungus, the melting soft silken tofu in my mouth and ofcourse that UMAMI!… that distinctive taste in a miso soup. Prawns! Clams! I thought to myself… that was it.. it was going to be a seafood miso soup with lightly boiled fresh prawns and clams in that tantalising broth.
What gives Miso Soup that fashionable “Umami” flavour is not the Miso paste as one would assume, and nor is it the flavour of over-boiled bones or seafood carcasses. It is in fact the broth which is created by the magic of lightly simmering some shredded dried fish and kelp together for a few minutes. There are so many ways to modify and jazz up your Miso soup; mine had clams, prawns, tofu and some rice noodles. In no more than an hour from reaching home, our lunch was ready. Simple, quick and hearty.
To see the recipe check out FoodEMagDXB on pages 24 and 25.