Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Miso soup

I'm always dismayed by the prices of miso soup at Japanese restaurants. $2 - $3 a bowl?! Damn. For less than $10 - $15 I can make miso soup by the gallon! And it tastes a lot better homemade, so why not just make it at home?

If you've never made miso soup before, don't let the novelty or lack of knowledge intimate you. It's actually insanely easy to throw together. Yes, you will need to buy a few ingredients that you may not have in your pantry. But once you've purchased the special items they will last you quite a long time. And if you're worried about it being a labor intensive soup, don't be. This entire bowl was created with only 5 ingredients, and was throw together in less than 30 minutes.

So what exactly are these special miso soup ingredients? Here are 4 of the 5 ingredients you'll need (I forgot to add my green onions to the photo, but I figure most of you out there know what green onions are...)

  1. Tofu. I like the silken kind for soups.
  2. Miso paste. This comes in red or white varieties- I've only tried white (pictured above) but I'm sure red would be delicious too. Make sure to refrigerate your miso after opening. 
  3. Hon dashi. This is the Bonito fish stock that serves as a base for the soup. Yes, it has MSG in it, but damn its delicious.
  4. Wakame, otherwise known as dried seaweed.
The full recipe is below, but first let me share a few tips and photos with you to help remove some of the mysticism from this dish.

First of all, like with cornstarch, don't add your miso directly to your entire pot of hon dashi broth. It'll stay in clumps and won't dissolve easily. To solve this problem, dissolve your miso into a small amount of broth in a little bowl. Then simply add that dissolved paste to the larger pot.
Miso paste, before and after dissolving

The other ingredient many of you out there have probably not worked with is wakame. I love wakame in miso soup! And that little bag will probably last me for years of soup making. To use wakame you need to rehydrate the dried seaweed in some hot water. But be warned- a little goes a loooooooooong way.


And after

It's got a great texture that's a tiny bit chewy. But it's so thin that when you're eating it in the soup it simply melts in your mouth.
Although the flavor can be a little strong when eaten on its own, wakame in miso soup 
provides that perfect amount of flavor that I think is pretty necessary for the entire dish. 
Although you can make miso soup without wakame, I'd advise against it.

So there you have it: miso soup-- (hopefully) demystified. It's one of my favorite soups to make in the winter, and the fact that I can whip it all up in such a short amount of time doesn't hurt either.

Buen Provecho,

Miso soup, from my friend So Yamada


1/2 cup hot water
4 tsp wakame (dried seaweed)
4 cups water
1.5 tsp hon dashi, Bonito Fish Soup Stock (dried fish stock)
1/2 – 1 package silken tofu
3 – 4 TBSP miso paste, to taste. Red or white miso paste is fine. (Refrigerate after opening)
2 stalks green onions, sliced

  1. Re-hydrate the wakame in 1/2 cup hot water. Allow to sit for ~5 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, dissolve dashi soup stock in 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer.
  3. Cut tofu into small cubes and add them to the soup.
  4. Add drained wakame to the soup.
  5. Remove 1/2 cup of the soup stock and, in a separate bowl, dissolve the miso. Return to the soup pan. Stir to thoroughly mix the miso paste. (If you don’t dissolve it in a separate bowl, you’ll have lots of miso clumps in your soup.)
  6. Turn off the heat and add sliced green onions.
Note: My friend So tells me not to boil the soup after miso has been added. As he says "I don’t know the reason for this, just don’t do it."


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