Ushiojiru Clam Soup Brings Out Full Umami of Hard Clam Broth; Pairs Perfectly with Handmade Sesame Tofu

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ushiojiru hard clam soup

Clams are in season as spring approaches. Satoshi Ogino, the owner of a Japanese restaurant, recommends “ushiojiru,” a clear Japanese hard clam soup. This dish allows you to fully enjoy the umami flavor of the clam broth.

Ogino’s restaurant serves ushiojiru hard clam soup every year when it is in season, which he says is very popular because it evokes the feeling of spring.

This time, he pairs the soup with sesame tofu, which perfectly matches the umami of the clams. He prepares the hard clam broth and handmade sesame tofu the day before the dish is served to create a genuine Japanese clear soup.

To make the broth, first, boil the hard clams quickly so that the clam meat does not become hard. Usually, hard clams are seasoned and prepared as is, but Ogino removes the clam meat from the shells, cuts them into bite-sized pieces, and soaks overnight in boiling water.

The osmotic pressure slowly releases the umami flavor from the clam meat into the boiling water, making “the broth richer,” he said.

Cutting the clam meat into easy-to-eat pieces is another key to making the soup more elegant.

Remove the water vascular system and scallops from the clams to make them more palatable. Cut off the tough foot and halve the meat. The removed scallops are not added to the soup but are used to make broth by placing them with the meat in boiling water.

He suggests making sesame tofu at home, saying, “The tofu sold in stores is a little soft to use as an ingredient in soup. Let’s make it ourselves.”

It is easier to use sesame paste to make it, he said.

Combine the paste with kombu stock and kudzu starch, and heat over a flame. When it thickens, pour it into a mold and let it cool overnight.

All that’s left to do is reheat the ingredients the day of serving and it’s ready to go. Slice the sesame tofu and place in a bowl with the clam meat on top. Arrange daikon radish slices over the meat and add the soup.

When you open the lid of the bowl, the aroma of the clams will spread out. You will be surprised at the fluffy texture of the clams when you taste them.

The soup is infused with the aroma and flavor of the sea, and the sesame tofu adds texture and flavor to the dish. With this recipe, you can make a soup of a high quality.

Lacquerware adds color to table

Ogino’s restaurant uses lacquerware made to order in a variety of colors and designs.

The soup bowls decorated with a crane and flowing clouds were ordered for the opening of the restaurant so that they could be used throughout the year. The number of bowls has gradually increased with the seasons. Camellia bowls are also used at this time of year.

“Lacquerware has the advantage of being durable and keeping food from getting cold. I hope people will use lacquerware at home, too, because it adds color to the dining table.”


Ushiojiru hard clam soup

Ingredients (serves 2)

    4 large hard clams with shells

    1 sheet of kombu (3 cm x 10 cm)

    650 milliliters kombu broth

    70 grams kudzu starch

    60 grams white sesame paste

    1 daikon radish

    an appropriate amount of sansho pepper leaves

    130 milliliters sake


    1. Drain out sand from the hard clams.

    2. Put clams, 480 milliliters water, 80 milliliters sake and one kombu sheet in a pot. Cover with aluminum foil and place on high heat. When the shells open, remove the clams with their shells. Bring the remaining broth to a boil, skim off the scum and turn off the heat.

    3. Using a spoon, remove the meat from the shell. Remove the straw-like vascular system from the meat, make fine slits in the foot, and cut the body in half. Cut out the scallops.

    Soak the meat, vascular system, and scallops in the broth, allow to cool, and refrigerate overnight.

    4. Mix the kombu broth, 50 milliliters sake, kudzu powder and white sesame paste in a bowl, strain through a sieve and transfer to a saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and heat over high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon.

    5. When the mixture becomes sticky, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes. Place the mixture in a food storage container, wrap in plastic wrap to adhere to the surface of the sesame tofu, and remove from heat with ice. Refrigerate overnight.

    6. Cut the daikon radish into thin strips and place the sansho leaves in a bowl of water, remove them and allow the leaves to dry.

    7. Heat the broth with the clams then remove the clams. Cut the sesame tofu into smaller pieces and steam them. Place the sesame tofu pieces in a bowl and top with the clam meat except for the scallops. Place the daikon slices and sansho pepper leaves on top of the meat and pour the broth over it.