Dear Soup Development Team,
For those of you who grew up in sheltered, middle-class suburbia, you’ll recall that the adultification of our youth involved two especially traumatizing events that would invariably grow to shape our understanding of what grown-ups in foreign lands do behind closed doors and away from the eyes of impressionable children. These are, of course, a) listening to a 2 Live Crew Album for the first time, and b) watching your first Japanese porno movie.
2 Live Crew’s 1989 release of “As Nasty As They Want To Be,” which went on to reach #3 on the Billboard Hip Hop Charts, offered my first exposure to the phrase “me love you long time” on the chorus of the track “Me So Horny.” For the longest time, I was unable to reconcile my utter confusion towards this phrase, since the Asian girls in my elementary school wouldn’t give me the time of day, let alone present offers of eternal love in the marble pit at recess, even when I let them win. Determined to figure out what the hell was going on, after considerable research I traced the etymology of this line back to Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 box office hit “Full Metal Jacket,” where a prostitute in Vietnam asks two US soldiers, “Hey, you got girlfriend Vietnam? Me so horny. Me love you long time.” Realizing that this was a shallow sales pitch and not a genuine token of affection, I gave up on Asian girls entirely, instead deciding to pursue another Caucasian girl (unsuccessfully) in my class, a detailed description of which is outside the scope of this Soup Development Team Email, and is now married anyhow. It would later be years before I could muster up the courage to ask an Asian girl out for a drink.
Not unlike Friedrich Nietzsche’s primary works on existentialism, I have yet to completely grasp the essence of Japanese pornography. Among the mountain of questions I have sought to find answers to, the most obvious one was why they decided to censor the actors’ private parts, when the content was so utterly disturbing and degrading to begin with? (for a detailed description, please refer to other sources). To me, that was like videotaping a mass murder, leaving the footage of the victims for everyone to see, yet censoring out the weapon. Stricken with curiosity, in 2004 while living in Taipei, I asked a Japanese girl in my introductory Mandarin class about this. A spicy presence in the classroom, and always ready to facilitate my understanding of Eastern matters, she explained to me that conservative Japanese society has always had the censorship rule in place, and the bizarreness of their porn was later adopted to make the movies more entertaining in an effort to increase sales. She then told me that her husband, a successful investment banker, had a rather large collection of illegal uncensored Japanese porn and was more than happy to ask him to burn his collection onto DVD for me if I wished. Visualizing how awkward such a request would be to execute in practice, I politely declined.
I often reflect on the above while making Miso soup, one of my favourites. I’ve have made this so many times, I can safely make the claim that the below version functions as an aphrodisiac if prepared correctly. So let’s get it on.
Making this soup requires a trip to an Asian grocery store, or even better, a Japanese specialty store. If you live in Toronto, there is a nice little place on the corner of Queen West and Niagara called Sanko . You can print out this email so you’ll have the ingredient list with you. There is a very helpful middle-aged man in the store who is always ready to dispense advice. However, he will push you to buy the most expensive ingredients. Stick with the more moderately priced ones, especially if you are a newbie to Japanese food and won’t notice the difference. While you’re there, pick up some Hi-chew, the greatest candy since the discovery of sugar that makes Fruitella taste like poison in comparison.
First you need to make the stock, called Dashi, which is easy
Combine in a soup pan:
One 5×4 piece of Kombu (Kelp)
4 1/2 cups of very cold water
Bring to a boil. Remove the soup pan from the heat and stir in:
1/2 cup of Katsuobushi (Dried Bonito Flakes)
After two minutes, strain and reserve
After wiping out, in the same soup pan, add:
1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
3 or 4 shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
1 small leek, white part only, thinly sliced
salt to taste
After 1 minute, add:
The Dashi stock you reserved earlier
1 teaspoon of soy sauce (use premium grade if possible)
In a separate mixing bowl, mix 4 tablespoons of miso paste and a bit of the stock until the miso paste is disolved, then add all of it to the soup. (You are now done the broth)
In soup bowls, add:
1 teaspoon of Wakame (dried seaweed that’s been soaking in water and then chopped into small pieces)
If you like tofu, you can also had some chopped extra firm tofu into the bowls as well
Ladle the broth into the soup bowls and serve
Thanks to the Soup Development Team members who have emailed me this week with suggestions for future soup initiatives, your opinions and great ideas are what make this project possible, please keep them coming.
Soup in the News:
Claire Hoffman from The New Yorker enjoys a bowl of soup with Prince
“made from scratch”