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I was thinking of making this tofu-/seafood-stew, but I am having some trouble getting a couple of ingredients for use in the initial stock - namely the dried anchovies and the kelp. A friend suggested that I should just make a stock of the heads and shells of the shrimp used later in the recipe, maybe with some soy sauce or anchovies in oil added in, to get that umami flavor mentioned on the Maangchi-website. If so how much should I use of the various ingredients, and should I clean out the shrimp heads in some way before attempting to make a stock from them?

  • Do you have no Asian grocery stores at all? It's possible there are closer substitutes. – Cascabel Apr 15 '15 at 15:10
  • Not really, no @Jefromi However if you tell me what these possible substitutes are, it is possible that the regular grocery store carries some of them. – eirikdaude Apr 15 '15 at 15:11
  • Both of these are pretty potent sources of umami, so I'd be hesitant to replace them (especially to replace both of them). You might be able to get similar compounds with shrimp shells and dried mushrooms, but the flavor would be quite different. – SourDoh Apr 15 '15 at 15:24
  • @sourd'oh What about the anchovies in oil, wouldn't they contribute quite a bit of umami as well? – eirikdaude Apr 15 '15 at 15:25
  • @eirikdaude They can, but they're usually used very differently. Oil packed anchovies are usually used by grinding them into a dish, I don't know that they'd work as well for making a stock. – SourDoh Apr 15 '15 at 20:59
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Some ingredients more effectively transfer flavor to stock in dried form than in fresh or pickled form. Mushrooms, kelp, fish and shellfish are examples of those types of ingredients.

You won't find an exact substitute for them, but they do keep for a long time, so it doesn't hurt to keep them on hand.

However, Japanese and Korean cuisine have many variations of stock starting from various combinations of dried ingredients. Although obviously Japanese and Korean taste preferences are quite different, it may be instructive to look at similar ingredients used in similar ways to see if you can adapt to what's available in your region.

Dried shiitake are used in some Japanese soup stocks, but years ago I noticed the similarity of aroma between smoked, dried katsuo (skipjack tuna) and dried porcini mushrooms, which may be more available to you in Norway. I was rather surprised to find that it was a rather compelling substitute for katsuo. There is some overlap between that and dried anchovies, though it won't be as close of a match.

Dried anchovies and dried sardines are as iconic as a source of flavor in Korean dishes as dried katsuo or dried sardines are in Japanese ones, so you won't get an exact result by substituting, but you may find a compelling enough alternative.

You may find locally dried fish that would help produce an effective stock. Stockfish, or dried cod, may be a reasonable local substitute in Norway. I would expect its flavor not to be as distinctive as dried anchovies, though.

However, you should do your best to find dried kelp, because the only reasonable substitute for that is MSG, which is purified to the point that the natural aromas of kelp are lost, so the flavor won't be as nice. It was quite reasonably priced, though, even when I was a starving student in Germany, even though it took a bit of effort to track down.

An inadequate but passable substitute for kelp may be a touch of MSG and simmered green cabbage. Cabbage is one of the few vegetables that old rural Japanese preparations didn't necessarily expect to be prepared in a soup stock, because it does a nice job of creating its own when simmered gently.

  • I wonder if a seaweed more common in the North Atlantic would work to replace the kelp? I've used dulse to make soup (it's savory and delicious), but it's also different. – SourDoh Apr 15 '15 at 22:32
  • I would think there must be some species of laminaria that would do the trick, @sourd'oh; that sounds reasonable. But there may not be a commercial harvesting market for it in Norway. I did sea that there's a species harvested in Iceland called laminaria digitata (hrossapari) that may have similar properties. – JasonTrue Apr 15 '15 at 22:38
  • Thanks for your help! Dried cod is more salty than umami in my experience, but I'll look around a bit and see what I can come up with based on the answers. I'll definitely stock up on some dried kelp the next time I visit a larger city. – eirikdaude Apr 16 '15 at 8:55
  • Glad I could help. It looks like there's some ambiguity in Norway regarding the difference between stockfish (usu. unsalted) and clipfish (salted before drying), so perhaps there are unsalted alternatives? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockfish or nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stokvis_(voedsel) – JasonTrue Apr 16 '15 at 18:14
  • @JasonTrue I think it has more to do with the drying process than what with what is added to it? Though that may be part of it too. I suppose that is the subject for a different q/a though :) – eirikdaude Apr 17 '15 at 1:05
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Some substitutions I would suggest to get that similar umami taste that both these products provide and are similar would be:

Picture of a package Bonito Flakes being held by someones left hand, "**Bonito Flakes** A quart of stock for less than a dollar."

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    Unfortunately the package is upside down in that picture. – Ross Ridge Apr 15 '15 at 18:30
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    Well, OP stated that he doesn't have any Asian grocery stores nearby. So in this case Katsuobushi, Nori, Dashi and and Shiitake mushrooms are not really substitutes. – Ching Chong Apr 15 '15 at 20:38
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    and wouldn't a stock of kelp and dried anchovies be dashi? – SourDoh Apr 15 '15 at 21:01
  • I was mystified by "dashi" as a substitute for dashi, myself, then I looked at the Wikipedia article and I realized how someone could come to that conclusion. That article talks about a product known as dashi-no-moto (instant soup stock), which again is only likely to be easy to find in an area which has Asian groceries available. Also nori would provide no meaningful foundation for soup stock. – JasonTrue Apr 15 '15 at 21:54

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