Fiction-Food Café

November 1, 2013

5-Flavor Soup from "Avatar: The Last Airbender"

          In the episode "Puppet Master" (ATLA s.3, ep.8), aside from learning about some pretty freaky but completely logical bending, we're introduced to another Southern Water Tribe food; five-flavor soup. While traveling in the woods, our quartet is met by an elderly woman named Hama who is an inn keeper in a small Fire Nation village. Later, it's not only revealed that she's from the Southern Water Tribe, but also that she's a water bender, which is huge news to Katara who she grew up thinking she was the only one. To celebrate the big reveal Hama prepares a traditional Southern Water Tribe meal with five-flavor soup as the main dish. After she places the large serving dish of soup on the table she water bends individual servings into everyones' bowl.

Note: None of the ingredients for the soup are mentioned in the episode, but it's clearly a broth soup. For the five flavors I decided to do five groupings of ingredients: sea flavor = dashi (fish) stock & seaweed, vegetable flavor = vegetable stock & mushrooms & onion, salt = soy sauce, spice = ginger & garlic, sweet = aji-mirin & sugar. Many of these ingredients can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store or at an Asian market. And don't be fooled by this soup's plain look, it's a definite flavor blast once it hits your mouth . ((Ack! It's a sneak attack, like Hama. Watch out!))

Southern Water Tribe 5-Flavor Soup

1 Tbsp. Sesame Oil
1/4 Cup Dashi Powder
2 Cups Water
Several Sheets of Dried Seaweed (aka Nori/Laver)
2 Cups Vegetable Stock
1 pkg. (~1 oz.) Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
2 Cups Water
1 Shallot (small onion), finely diced
(food processor works great)
3 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
1 tsp. Grated Ginger
2 tsp. Minced Garlic
2 tsp. White Granulated Sugar
3 Tbsp. Aji-Mirin Sweet Cooking Rice Wine

Importnat Items:
Fine Mesh Strainer

1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook the sesame oil, shallot bits, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar, & aji-mirin until the shallot bits are tender, about 10 mins.
2. In a microwavable bowl or cup combine 2 cups of water with the dashi powder. Microwave for about 3 mins to dissolve the dashi & then pour the liquid into the pot. In the same microwavable container pour 2 more cups of water & add the dried mushrooms. Microwave for 3 mins so that the mushrooms are reconstituted & a broth is created. Pour the mushrooms & liquid into the pot. Add the vegetable stock to the pot & stir. Next, add the sheets of seaweed (rip into manageable pieces if needed). Stir everything together & bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low & cover. Simmer low for about 20 mins or so until all of the flavors have combined nicely.
3. Place a mesh strainer over a large serving bowl or another large pot & strain the soup so you end up with only the beautiful brown broth below. Serve hot.
Serving Suggestion (shown below): Gather the mushrooms from the strainer, rinse them off, & place a few in each bowl of soup. Float a couple of pieces of dried seaweed in the soup too, or if you don't want large pieces, roll up a seaweed sheet & cut it into very thin strips using a clean pair of kitchen scissors.

* For extra yum add in some Southern Water Tribe Seaweed Noodles! *

* And make sure you check out The Geeky Chef's version of Avatar's 5-Flavor Soup! *


  1. Is there a alternative (non-microwave) way to cook the dashi powder and mushrooms?

    1. Yep! Simply pour four cups of water into the pot along with the dashi and mushrooms. Make sure the dashi gets dissolved and the mushrooms get reconstituted. Looking at this recipe now, putting all of the ingredients directly into the pot is much easier and straightforward. I guess I was trying to keep the five flavor ingredients distinct. But yeah, totally just put the ingredients in the pot and skip the microwave. Good question!

  2. Can I leave out the seaweed (I plan on making the seaweed noddles for this soup. I just don't want the seaweed to be overpowering)? I know the soup will probably not taste the same without it, but will it still be good without the seaweed?

    1. It'll be fine without the seaweed, but having the seaweed noodles as well won't make the seaweed flavor overwhelming; unless you're very sensitive to that particular flavor.


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