Editor’s note: The theme of Gohan Lab is to help people make simple, tasty “gohan” (meals).

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The final installment of our series on dashi stock and soup focuses on Chinese-style soup made from readily available seafood.

The ingredients include “ara” (head, bones and fins left after a fish is filleted) that are sold to be used in simmered dishes.

Ara are ideal to make stock because meat and skin are still attached to the head and “nakabone” (neural spine), and they contain a generous amount of umami savory taste and gelatinous substance.

You can make the most of the characteristics of fish with a distinctive taste, such as “buri” (Japanese amberjack) and salmon, as well as the lighter white-meat “tai” (sea bream). Their meat is a natural match for the soup.

“Smaller fish such as ‘aji’ (horse mackerel) may be cut into chunks and used,” says Katsuhiko Yoshida, who supervises the recipe's cooking aspect.

One key to making a delicious soup is to deal with the odor of the fish. After parboiling the fish in preparation, simmer it slowly with herb vegetables. Green onion and ginger are often used in Japanese-style fish dishes, but celery is a surprisingly good match with fish. The refreshing aroma at once creates an exotic feel.

By simmering for an hour in the pot, the flavor is nurtured so only salt will be needed as seasoning.

Soup is your ally during hectic days.

Western ingredients for Japanese-style dashi

Some common preserved foods from outside Japan can be used to make stock for various Japanese dishes.

Dried tomatoes used in Italian cooking are rich in glutamic acid and can be added to the stock for the “oden” hot pot just like dried kombu kelp.

Preserved meat such as bacon and uncured ham undergo similar smoking and maturation processes as “katsuobushi” (boiled, dried, smoked and fermented skipjack tuna). Thus soup with bacon and vegetables can be turned into miso soup.

Some overseas chefs who have studied Japanese cuisine have developed “buta-bushi” from pork in place of katsuobushi, which is hard to get in their countries, leading to the creation of new noodle dishes.

Hiroya Kawasaki, who oversees the cookery science aspect of this series’ recipes says, “Wherever you are in the world, familiar food ingredients become dishes you feel like making. Cookery science serves to efficiently use the limited food resources and design cooking.”

BASIC COOKING METHOD

(Supervised by Katsuhiko Yoshida in the cooking aspect and Hiroya Kawasaki in the cookery science aspect)

* Ingredients and cooking utensils (Serves four)

500 grams “ara” (from Japanese amberjack, fall salmon, sea bream or others), 15 cm green onion (naganegi), some celery leaves and stalk, ginger (half the size of thumb), some parsley or coriander stalk (if available), 1 liter water, 2 Tbsp sake, little less than 1 tsp salt, pot, sieve

1. Cut green onion into 2-cm pieces. Cut celery leaves and stalk; parsley and coriander into 2- to 3-cm pieces. Slice unpeeled ginger into thickness of 3 mm and cut into 1-cm squares (PHOTO A).

2. Bring some water to a boil in pot and add fish ara. Cook for about a minute until surface turns white and frosty. Drain in sieve (PHOTO B).

3. Wash pot, add 1 liter water and bring to a boil. Add fish ara and cut herb vegetables. When pot comes to a boil again, turn down heat so surface is boiling in a few places. Continue simmering without lid.

4. After about an hour, add sake and salt (PHOTO C) and mix gently. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, have a taste and add salt if necessary.

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Katsuhiko Yoshida is the owner-chef of Jeeten, a restaurant in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Uehara district offering Chinese home cooking.

Hiroya Kawasaki studies the science of tastiness and cooking methods at Ajinomoto’s Institute of Food Sciences and Technologies.

ARRANGED VERSION

<Soup with clams and bacon>

There are many other variations of soup featuring seafood and herb vegetables. One short-cut to give depth to the flavor of clams and garlic is to add bacon.

Slice 2 cloves garlic, and cut 50 grams bacon into bite-size pieces. Add garlic to pot and place on heat. Add 300 grams “asari” clams with shell, 2 Tbsp sake, 4 Tbsp water and cover with lid. Keep at low heat. When pot comes to a boil and shells start to open, add 600 ml water and turn up heat. When pot boils again, add bacon. Bring to a quick boil, have a taste and add salt if needed.

COOKERY SCIENCE

Receptors to sense umami exist not only in our tongues, but also in our stomachs.

When the stomach detects the flavor, the nerves carry the information to the brain and the command to set off digestion and absorption is sent from the brain to the stomach and small intestines.

The sense of satisfaction in the brain will control overeating and, combined with the information from the tongue, a pleasant memory is formed.

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Gohan Lab column