This unsurpassed clam consommé is an example of a non-dashi-based clear soup. The water in which the live clams are gently boiled and coaxed to open becomes a delicately flavored broth. Though clams are plentiful in Japan, choice fresh ones are not inexpensive, and this is definitely soup for an "occasion." In fact, it is often served at Japanese wedding banquets—in the broth in each bowl, the meat of a clam rests in each side of the hinged shell, said to represent the happily joined couple.
As alternative ingredients, use a piece of parboiled asparagus tip in each bowl instead of udo, and fresh rind of lime or lemon for the yuzu.
To prepare: A large part of the preparation is careful shopping. Choose clams with perfect shells. Strike two together. If the sound is metallic, the clams are most likely still alive. If the sound is dull, the clam is either dead or the shell has been cracked or chipped. Using less than the best clams will result in "smelly" soup.
Cover clams with lightly salted or plain water for 4-5 hours (in summer, 10 hours in water) in a cool, dark place to allow clams to expel sand and dirt.
Gently scrub shells clean under running cold water with a brush. Hinged shells will be used as a garnish.
Udo is a vegetable with a flavor somewhere between celery and asparagus with a hint of fennel flavor. Wash the stalk and cut into pieces 1-1/2 x 1/2 x 1/8 inches (4 x 1-1/2 x 1/2 cm). Udo is good raw or cooked; here parboil it 1 minute in lightly salted water after cutting.
Outside Japan, udo may be difficult to buy, so use 2 parboiled asparagus tips per serving as a substitute,
To cook: Put the unopened clams in about 3-1/3 cups of cold water in a medium-sized soup pot together with the giant kelp, already wiped clean with a damp cloth. (Try to use a piece from the base of the leaf for best flavor). Place over medium to high heat and bring to a boil. Remove kelp just before boiling point is reached. Boil until all clams open, then scoop them out of the broth. Remove broth from heat and strain into another pot.
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This page created April 2007
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