Senba-jiru: Fishermen’s Soup

Senba Jiru Japanese Fishermen's Soup

The name of this soup literally means “on-board boat,” indicating that it was made on fishing boats. Today, however, fish is caught on large factory-size boats that spend weeks out on the open seas. The fish are caught, cleaned, and frozen right on board, making it possible to haul in big volumes at relatively low costs. This soup can be made with fish scraps (from other meals), or with cheaper fish—Ms. Shimbo specifies mackerel, but suggests salmon can be used for a less “fishy” taste.

Senba Jiru Japanese Fishermen's Soup

Fishermen’s Mackerel Soup

serves 3 to 4
page 394

  • Senba Jiru Japanese Fishermen's Soup1 large whole mackerel (about 1.3 pounds),
    cleaned and filleted 

    • or 1 pound salmon fillet
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons salt
  • 11 ounces daikon
    (aobut 12 inches of a medium root)
  • 1 medium carrot, or 1 small broccoli head
  • 2 Tablespoons julienned ginger
  • 1/4 cup sake (rice wine)
  • 1 two-inch square kombu (kelp)
  • 3 quarter-sized slices ginger, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon tamari
  • 1/4 teaspoon komezu (rice vinegar)
  • 1/3 cup coriander leaves cut into 1-inch lengths
    • I used Chinese celery leaves

Cut the fish into eight to 10 pieces, about 2 by 2 1/2 inches each, holding the knife at a shallow angle to the cutting board to make the surface area of the cuts large. Place the fish in a flat-bottomed colander, and sprinkle salt all over it using 1 Tablespoon salt for the mackerel or 2 teaspoons for the salmon. Let the fish stand for 30 minutes.
While the salted fish rests, peel the daikon and carrot, and cut them rangiri-style, into 1-inch pieces. If you are using broccoli, cut it into small floweretes. Put the daikon and carrot into a medium pot, and add water to cover them by 1 inch. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. If you are using broccoli, parboil it for 1 minute. Drain the vegetables, and set them aside.
In saucepan of boiling water, blanch the julienned ginger. Drain the ginger, cool it under cold running water, and wipe dry with a paper towel. Set it aside.
Rinse the fish gently under cold running water to remove the salt and exuded liquid. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Place two or three fish pieces at a time in a small colander, and blanch the fish by lowering the colander into the boiling water. When the fish turns white, remove the colander from the water, and rinse the fish gently to remove any foreign matter. This technique is called shimofuri.
In a medium pot combine the fish, sake, kombu, and raw ginger slices, and add water to cover the fish by 1 inch. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil over medium heat. Turn the heat to low, and cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
Carefully remove the fish pieces from the cooking liquid, set them aside on a plate, and cover with plastic wrap. Remove kombu from the pot, and discard it.
Add the daikon and carrot to the pot, cover the pot with a drop lid, and cook, covered, until the vegetables are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the tamari and komezu. If you are using broccoli, add it after the tamari and komezu, and heat the broccoli just until it is warm. If you won’t be serving the soup until later in the day, let it cool, and refrigerate it and the fish separately.
Immediately before serving time, heat the pot of soup, return the fish to it, and add the coriander. Serve the soup garnished with the blanched julienned ginger.

Senba Jiru Japanese Fishermen's Soup

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2 thoughts on “Senba-jiru: Fishermen’s Soup

    • Yes it is simple.
      I was tempted to skip the blanching and parboiling, but I’m glad I didn’t. The shimofuri technique, blanching the fish until it turns white, keeps the broth from tasting fishy and keeps it clear so it’s pretty.

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