Dark Bean Soup with Bean Curd and Okra

Aka Dashi

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    4

Appears in

An American Taste of Japan

An American Taste of Japan

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1985

  • About

Okra is a much relished and recent addition to the Japanese diet. The Japanese savor the slight viscosity that emerges from the cooked, cut vegetable; it reminds them of their native slippery mushrooms called naméko. Americans, who first introduced this vegetable to Japan, are less keen about such textures. So I’ve blanched the okra whole before slicing and adding it to the soup, to prevent any unpleasant stickiness. Pungent dark bean paste perks up the otherwise subtle broth, and the final dash of fragrant Japanese pepper makes the flavor sparkle.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups dashi (basic sea stock) OR koi dashi (enriched sea stock)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • ½ block (about 6 ounces) tōfu (bean curd)
  • 8–10 small fresh okra pods
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • tablespoons aka miso (dark fermented bean paste)
  • ½ teaspoon sanshō (fragrant Japanese pepper)

Method

Heat the stock in a saucepan over medium-low heat and season with ¼ teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of soy sauce.

While the stock is heating, drain the bean curd well, gently pressing out excess liquid. Cut it into small cubes (about ½ inch on a side) and add these to the broth. Cook for 1 minute.

In a small saucepan, bring several cups of water to a rolling boil. Rub the whole okra pods with ½ teaspoon of salt to help remove their fuzz. Then blanch the pods in the boiling water for only 20 to 30 seconds—just long enough to turn the vegetable bright green and barely cooked. Drain the okra pods immediately and allow them to cool at room temperature until you can handle them comfortably. Trim off the stems and pointed tips, discarding these pieces. Slice the pods into ½-inch rounds (star shapes, really) and add these to the simmering bean-curd cubes in the broth.

Place the bean paste in a small separate bowl. Quickly whisk in ¼ cup or so of hot broth from the pot until completely combined. Pour the dissolved bean paste into the soup and stir until fully distributed. Let the soup simmer for 30 seconds more, then serve in individual bowls. Sprinkle a pinch of Japanese pepper over each serving just before bringing to the table.