Ocean Noodle Broth

Sakana-Zōmen

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Complex

  • Serves

    8

Appears in

An American Taste of Japan

An American Taste of Japan

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1985

  • About

Long before the invention of the food processor, frugal Japanese made a version of this soup with scraps left from filleting fish. It was a tedious and time-consuming task to pick bits and pieces of flesh from the fish bones, mince it with knives, then mash it with a mortar and pestle before piping and poaching the “noodles.” The results were obviously worth the trouble, since a recipe for this soup dating back to the seventeenth century still exists!

Today, with modern kitchen equipment, the making of these prized ocean noodles has been greatly simplified. Since both the broth and the noodles freeze well, I recommend that you make a full recipe even if you intend to serve only a few portions at a time.

Ingredients

Broth

  • 1 whole porgy, about 1 pound (use head and bones for broth, flesh for noodles)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 20–25 square inches dashi kombu (dried kelp for stock making)
  • 2 slices fresh ginger, each the size of a quarter
  • 3 tablespoons saké (Japanese rice wine)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons usukuchi shōyu (light soy sauce)
  • 1 large egg (use white and shell to clarify stock; reserve yolk for noodles)

Noodles

  • flesh from above fish (about ¾ coarsely chopped)
  • yolk from above egg
  • 1 teaspoon saké (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger juice (extracted from freshly grated ginger)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon sanshō (fragrant Japanese pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons jōshinko (rice flour) about cup water
  • 1 small slender zucchini, about 6–7 inches long, for garnish
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Method

Have your fish store fillet the porgy and remove the skin from the fillets. Mention that you’ll be using the head and bones in your stock, though you won’t be needing the skin. The “meat” will be used in the noodle “dough.”

Place the head and bones in a large colander and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt over all surfaces. Let the carcass “sweat” for 5–10 minutes. Pour boiling water over the bones and head; turn them over and repeat the boiling water bath. Place the blanched bones and head in a large saucepan with 2 quarts of fresh cold water (at this stage the bones should be covered by at least ½ inch of water). Place the kelp in the pot and slowly bring to a boil, uncovered, over a low flame (this can take up to 1½ hours). Remove and discard the kelp. Lower the heat if necessary to keep the stock at a gentle simmer. Add the slices of ginger, rice wine, 2 teaspoons of salt, and light soy sauce, and continue to simmer for 10–15 minutes longer. Pour the stock through a cloth- or paper-lined strainer or colander, discarding the solids. Return the broth to a clean pot.

Separate the egg. Cover and set aside the yolk for making the noodles. Lightly beat the white and crush the shell slightly in it. Bring the strained broth to a boil and whisk in the crushed shell and beaten egg white. Continue to cook for 1 minute before pouring the broth again through a cloth- or paper-lined strainer or colander into a 2-quart measuring cup. If you have more than 6 cups of clarified broth, return it to the pot and reduce it by cooking, uncovered, over medium heat. If you have less than 6 cups of clarified stock, add fresh water to make 6 cups.

Carefully pick over the filleted fish, making sure to remove all bones and bits of skin. Chop the flesh into coarse pieces, then place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse-process for 10–15 seconds. Add the yolk and 1 teaspoon each of rice wine and ginger juice; add ¼ teaspoon each of salt and Japanese pepper. Continue to pulse-process after each addition to ensure a smooth paste. Sprinkle the rice flour over the fish paste and process again. With the machine turned on, dribble the water through the feed tube. Stop after half of it has been added, to check the consistency; ideally, it should look like a buttercream frosting. With the fish paste, fill a nylon pastry bag fitted with a No. 5 Wilton tip.

Fill a wide pot with water to a depth of 3 inches. Bring to a vigorous boil. Hold the filled pastry bag 18–24 inches above the boiling water. Pipe in about one quarter of the paste in circular motions. Lower the heat and gently poach the noodles for 2–3 minutes (they’ll rise to the surface as they cook). Gently remove the noodles with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a bowl of cold water. Drain the noodles to be used immediately. Place the drained noodles at the bottoms of individual soup bowls.

Bring the water in the pot back to a rolling boil and repeat the noodle-making process in three or more batches. Inevitably your arms will tire and begin to fall closer to the level of the hot water, where the steam from the pot “cooks” the fish paste in the tip of the pastry bag. If the tip of the bag should become clogged, use a toothpick to remove the obstruction.

Trim both ends of the zucchini, then cut it in half lengthwise. Cut across at equal intervals to yield eight pieces in all. Gently scrape out any seeds from each piece, then etch and trim the skin of the zucchini pieces so that each resembles a leaf. Blanch the zucchini leaves for 45 seconds in several cups of boiling water to which ½ teaspoon of salt has been added, removing them with a slotted spoon. Pat dry gently.

Rest a single zucchini leaf on top of the noodles in each bowl. Heat the seasoned broth just to the boiling point, then gently ladle ¾ cup of hot fish broth into every bowl. Serve at once.