Hawaiian people have their very own meat soup also regarded as a national dish, called saimin. It is based on a dashi broth, served with soba noodles and fresh vegetables.
What is the origin of saimin?
In the last decade, Asian food and along with this, their soups became well known and consumed by many food buffs around the world. We’ve heard more and more about Chinese hot and sour soup, Vietnamese pho and Japanese miso and ramen, but Hawaiian saimin escaped the crowd’s attention. It has a pan fried variant, inspired by pancit, a Filipino one pot dish.
Saimin can be found anywhere in Hawaii, from bistro style places to resorts, even in McDonald’s. For those who are short on time or not keen on cooking, there is an instant version, which requires only hot water. It can be consumed as a snack or even a main dish, depending on the number of additional ingredients, such as meat, cold cuts, vegetables, sprouts, herbs. The options are countless.
What is saimin?
Saimin provides everything we expect from a rich, filling soup. It’s based on an intense broth, made with dashi konbu (dried kelp), aromatic shiitake mushrooms, bonito (dried tunalike fish) and to naturally enhance the flavors, monosodium glutamate.
The base should be cooked for a few hours; hence it’s not a quick meal, but certainly worth the effort. Then by adding some water and soy sauce, it becomes a lighter, but still characteristic broth, perfect for keeping the food warm and aromatic. Other than soy sauce, it can be spiced up with beef or shrimp stock, too.
What should saimin be topped with?
The Japanese, buckwheat based soba noodles are the core ingredients of saimin. Hence this staple Hawaiian dish can be consumed with gluten intolerance as well. These thin, whitish noodles beautifully absorb the broth and also very filling. However the various toppings conjure this lovely soup something delish. As an impact by immigrants from different countries, there are many different toppings to sprinkle the soup with.
Kamaboko, a sweetened fish cake is a classic ingredient with reason, but same goes with char siu, a spicy, sweetish pork roast. Thinly sliced spam as an easily available ingredient is widely used, just like halved, hard boiled eggs.
Thinly sliced spring onions and celery sticks, crunchy bean sprouts, quartered baby bok choy, shredded white cabbage, daikon or the spectacular watermelon radish, work great sprinkled on top of the hot soup. Regarding to the spices anything hot goes well with saimin, such as chili, black or Sichuan pepper, hot mustard mixed with light soy sauce also as a dip for the noodle. Herbs provide additional freshness by sprinkled over at the end, especially mixed parsley and cilantro leaves.
How is saimin served and consumed?
The soup is assembled in capacious, individual pots. For beginners, a spoon is recommended, but for a more authentic experience, chopsticks are the best. Then after finishing with all the soft and crunchy pieces, the broth can get sipped or slurped slowly.
Clear broth is a must for an appetizing saimin. For that the bones should get scalded and rinsed under cold, running water. Cooking also has to begin in cold water. Scum should be frequently removed during cooking and the broth filtered through a sieve at the end. Soba noodles always have to be cooked separately, and then served immediately with the hot broth and toppings.
- 2 oz. dried bonito
- 5 dried shiitake mushrooms , cut in small pieces
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
- 1 small leaf dashi konbu (dried kelp)
- 5 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- 4 quarts water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 8 oz. dry Japanese soba noodles
- 4 cups dashi konbu
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Kamaboko (dried Japanese surimi), thinly sliced
- Spam , sliced
- Ham , sliced
- Roast pork , sliced
- Char siu (barbecue grilled pork)
- Carrots , sliced
- Green cabbage , sliced
- Bok choy , chopped
- Shiitakes , sliced
- Eggs (fried or scrambled)
- Small shrimp , cooked, shelled, and deveined
- Dried shrimps
- Bring all the ingredients (except salt and MSG) to a boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer covered over low heat for about 2 hours. Add salt and MSG.
- In a large pot, pour 4 quarts of water and salt.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Add the soba noodles and boil for 5 minutes or until al dente.
- Drain, rinse with warm running water, and reserve until ready to serve.
- In a large pot, add the dashi konbu and ginger.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Reduce the heat to low. Add the soy sauce and the selected toppings.
- Simmer for 5 more minutes or until the toppings are cooked. Remove from heat.
- Place the cooked soba noodles in a large soup bowl.
- Add the broth mixture with the selected toppings and serve immediately.