The miso soup lesson goes on. Because I just don’t know where to stop.
This time, we are getting into niboshi, the little dried anchovy-like fish used for making soup stock. I don’t know exactly what the fish is called in English and there are actually many kinds of little fish that gets this same treatment. Let’s look at a photo. That’s quicker.
Sorry about all the dead fish eyes. But I can assure you that they are not staring at you.
And here’s the page about niboshi on Wikipedia. Please scan through and come back.
Lesson 7 (still easy, just a different ingredient)
Buy some niboshi. It might be called iriko, as the Wikipedia page says. It is sold in stores that have East Asian food.
You don’t need a whole lot of fish to make the stock for miso soup. Let’s take… maybe 6 small pieces to make soup for 2 people. You can put in a lot more, up to 20 pieces or so to give the soup some oomph. But stronger is not better at all for Japanese stocks, so please experiment. Throw them in the pot, pour cold water enough to make the soup, walk away. Come back in 8 hours or 12. You have your dashi.
If you need to speed up the process, put the fish in the pot, pour in some water, heat it to a gentle simmer and keep simmering for 10 minutes. You have your dashi.
The difference between the two methods is that you get a cleaner tasting, sweeter stock with the cold water soak method, and a stronger, slightly bitter stock with the simmer. It doesn’t matter which one.
Some people use both soak and simmer to draw out the most flavor. If you are doing that, you might want to remove and toss the head and the gut parts from the fish. Those parts contain the bitter tastes.
You can take out the fish and not eat them, or keep them in the finished soup. The soup looks better without them, but if the fish is small, I discard some and keep some in, as I have done in the photo below. You can see the fish on top of the carrot slice.
Use this dashi to make your soup. Niboshi dashi is earthier than katsuobushi dashi. You can choose which one to use depending on what you put in the soup, or just decide which one you like better and stick to it.
I grew up mostly with niboshi dashi, so I am partial to it. It is the taste of home for me.
One more thing. When choosing niboshi, make sure not to buy fish that has turned brown. Those are old. I try to get the prettiest looking ones in the store, and keep them in the freezer.