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Japanese Recipes: Atsumono
"Soupy Stuff"

Miso Soup with Somen (thin noodles)


Dashi is the generic term for Japanese soup base, and it is most commonly made with kombu seaweed and dried, shaved bonito (fish flakes). Dashi is a key ingredient in soups, simmered dishes, and almost any sauce. It can also be made from kombu or other seaweeds alone, shiitake mushrooms, anchovies or other small dried fish. When making dashi with bonito it is important not to boil the bonito flakes in the water for too long or it will take on a more fishy taste.

Ichi Dashi ("First" Dashi)

1 qt water
1 oz kombu
1 oz bonito flakes

Put kombu in cold water and slowly bring to a boil.
Remove kombu just before water boils.
Bring to a full boil.
Add 1 cu cold water to stop boil and add bonito flakes.
Take off heat as soon as it returns to a full boil.
Skim off foam and strain out bonito.

To make Ni Dashi ("Second" Dashi), save the used kombu and bonito flakes and repeat the process with another quart of water. Second Dashi may have a slightly fishier, less refined flavor.


Somen is a very thin noodle made from wheat flour, water, and salt. Wheat growing in Japan actually dates back to the Heian Era, but was never practiced on a wide scale and the flour was only used for noodles until the introduction of bread, tempura batter, and other uses by the Portuguese. Somen is made by carefully stretching the dough between two sticks to get the extremely thin shape. It was very labor intensive and therefore an upperclass food, as opposed to udon (thick noodles) which could be rolled and cut by anyone. You should be able to find somen and udon or similar Chinese noodles at any asian grocery store.

It is important not to overcook Japanese noodles. Udon will require longer to cook than somen. Follow directions on the package if they differ from the below instructions.

1 oz somen
a few quarts water

Boil enough water for the somen to move freely (several quarts of water per ounce of noodles).
Add somen when at a rapid boil.
Stir noodles briefly to separate.
Cook for 2 minutes, then taste a noodle. It should be soft but not mushy.
Ideally there should still be a pinprick of white in the center of the noodle.
Immediately remove the noodles and plunge them into cold water.
Run under cold water until noodles are cold. 
For serving, plunge the noodles back into hot or cold water (depending on dish)


Miso is made by fermenting soybeans with koji yeast and salt. The mixture is very salty with a pleasant taste which is hard to describe but does not taste "fermented" per se (unlike natto, also made from fermented soybeans). Shiro (white) miso has a lighter, sweeter flavor, and aka (red) miso has a richer, warmer flavor. For this reason some Japanese prefer to put shiro miso in their soup for the summer and aka miso for the winter. I chose to use aka miso because it had just gotten cold after an unusually hot summer and I felt the richness of the aka miso would feel comforting.

Miso Soup with Somen

Per person:
1 cup hot dashi
1 tsp miso paste
small pile of somen noodles
scallions or green onions, chopped into fine rings

Mix dashi and miso paste in single serving bowl.
Add somen noodles.
Garnish with a pinch or more of green onions.

Abira-Jiru - Duck Soup

I learned something very important about serving duck soup... it must be served very hot, before the fat has any chance to separate. Those who valued the aesthetics of the dishes ranked this as one of the most beautiful dishes of the meal, but taste-wise it was ranked close to the bottom due to inadvertently serving a lot of separated fat in the bowls.


Serves 10

10 cups water from soaking shiitake
10 cups dashi
1 cups soy sauce
0.5 lb daikon cut into 1-inch chunks
8 lbs whole duck carcass and meat, skinned & boned & meat cut into bite-size pieces

Simmer daikon, duck meat and duck carcass in shiitake water, dashi, and soy sauce. Remove daikon and carcass and discard.

Serving the soup:

dried wakame
1 lb daikon, paper-thin circles cut on a mandolin
30 dried chrysanthemum flowers (may find them in tea section)
salt and vinegar to taste
fish cake in flower shape, sliced

Drop chrysanthemum flowers into boiling water for 1 minute, then sprinkle with salt and rice vinegar. Spoon soup into bowls and add a pinch of wakame and one fish cake slice.  Float daikon slice on top and place a whole chrysanthemum flower on top of the daikon.

All content copyright the author, Jennifer Munson munson.jennifer@gmail.com The author makes no guarantees for instructions and recipes on this site; neither does she accept responsibility for their outcomes. Verbatim copies may be made for educational purposes only provided they contain original copyright marking.

This page created April 4, 2001

Last updated August 02, 2005