Fishing aside, one of my favorite reasons for visiting japan as a kid was to dig for clams at low tide. For a 6 year old, there are few things more exciting than sinking your hands into a cool slurry of sand and coming up with a handful of clams that would later make it into a bowl of miso soup for breakfast.
Those clams are known as Asari in Japan, but thanks to the popularity of Japanese oysters, they were introduced to the West Coast of the US and are commonly known as Manila clams in grocery stores. They have a wonderful briny flavor different from other varieties of clams which makes for a soup that's a refreshing change from your usual bonito and kombu based miso soup.
It's also easier to make than most miso soups because there's no need to make dashi first. You start with water, and the hard-working mollusks turn it into a delicate broth. Miso, which is a fermented soybean paste, seasons the broth while packing it full of umami. Mushrooms add more flavor and texture, but you can really add just about anything you want (or leave them out all-together).
- 200 grams Manila clams (a.k.a. Asari clams)
- 2 cups water
- ½ package Japanese mushrooms (such as shimeji, enoki or nameko)
- 1 ½ tablespoons miso (to taste)
- 1 scallion (chopped)
- The day before you plan to make your miso soup, add the clams and 1 teaspoon of salt to a bowl and add just enough water to cover the clams. This will make the clams open and release any sand they contain. The next day, rinse the clams
- Add the mushrooms, clams and 2 cups of fresh water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the clams open (about 1-2 minutes).
- Turn the heat down and add the miso, dissolving the paste in a ladle filled with a little soup first to avoid clumps. Because different types of miso vary in salinity, taste the soup and adjust the miso to taste.
- Finish by adding the scallions and serve immediately.