Unlike American clam chowders, which are thick and combine a variety of flavors, this clear Japanese soup is accented with only a splash of rice wine, a drop of soy, and a decorative sliver of lemon peel. Native American quahogs found along the eastern seaboard are particularly well suited to this Japanese treatment, though you can use any variety of hard-shell clam with equal success. Ushio-Jiru captures the rich yet subtle essence of the clam.
Scrub the clams with a stiff brush, then soak them in several cups of salted water (it should taste briny, like the ocean) for 45 minutes‒ 1 hour. Stir up and discard the water. Repeat this procedure to get rid of all sand and foreign matter.
Lay the dried kelp in a large, wide-mouthed pot, and pour
Pour the broth from the pot through a cloth- or paper-lined strainer or colander. Discard the kelp, Simmered Mushrooms and Kelp, Kelp Squares with Fragrant Pepper (or save for making the recipes). Gently rinse the clams if they seem sandy. Remove half the shell of each clam so that it fits more easily into an individual soup bowl.
Season the reserved broth with the salt, rice wine, and light soy sauce. Keep this broth barely simmering over low heat while you make the decorative lemon peels. Use a sharp, small stainless-steel knife or small scissors when shaping the peel.
In the fall or winter months, shape your lemon peel into pine needles: For each serving cut one or two long, narrow, triangular wedges. Trim them as illustrated.
In the early spring, shape your lemon peel into cherry blossom petals: For each serving, cut three oval shapes, each about
At all other times of the year, a simple flower shape is best: Cut one circle per serving. The circles should be
To serve the soup, place two or three clams in each bowl and pour hot seasoned broth over them. Float the decorative lemon peel on top of the soup. Serve immediately.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.