This pretty little concoction with its combination of classic flavors and textures is a variation on a soup I ate in several joyous establishments in Japan during my travels there. It will fill your senses with its simple perfection and glisten like a jewel at your table.
3/4 pound mushrooms of your choice (see note) cleaned
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup loosely packed dulse or kombu (sea vegetables)
1/4 cup loosely packed bonito (dried white fish)
1 inch piece of ginger, cut into slices
1 4-inch piece of lemon grass, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 green onions, coarsely chopped
4-5 cilantro sprigs
Soy sauce to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable or untoasted sesame oil
12 cooked prawns
Garnish: thin strips of carrot, cilantro sprigs, thinly sliced green onions, lime wedges
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and reserve. Cut the mushrooms into slices.
Pour the vegetable stock or water into a saucepan and add the mushroom stems, dulse, bonito, ginger, lemon grass, half of the garlic, green onions and cilantro. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and season to taste with soy sauce.
While the stock is simmering, Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat and add the oil. Stir fry the mushrooms with the remaining garlic for a scant minute or two, or until they are tender but not mushy. Splash the pan with a small amount of soy sauce to season the mushrooms and remove from the heat.
To compose the dish: Spoon the mushrooms in the center of 4 or 6 shallow soup bowls and divide the prawns into the bowls around the mushrooms. Scatter or place a few carrot strips between the prawns. Strain the soup stock over the mushrooms and prawns. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions and cilantro sprigs and serve with lime wedges if desired.
Note on mushrooms: On the show we used chanterelle, shiitake, oyster and domestic mushrooms. Chanterelles and oysters are very seasonal. If you can't find these, shiitakes are my mushroom of choice for this soup.