So it’s not the loveliest photo. But it is the loveliest soup. There is one very good reason why you should make your own miso soup, and if you are a vegetarian, there are two very good reasons. Did you know, in most restaurants, miso soup is made with bonito flakes in the broth? Bonito = fish. I cannot tell you how bummed I was to learn that fact. My favorite lunch in all the world was to go to a sushi joint, get the miso to start, salad with that delicious sesame dressing, and a vegetable roll and a futomaki. Now no more miso for me.
Unless I make it myself. And, now that I have been making it for years, I like mine better than the restaurants anyway. It’s fast, delicious, and healthy. And here is the other reason you should make your own – whether you are vegetarian or not – miso paste is very good for you, but it loses it’s nutritional value as it heats. So that soup you get in restaurants, where the miso has been sitting for hours, has lost most of it’s good-for-you-ness. If you make your own, you can add the miso right before you serve it and get all the benefits.
The miso soup I make comes from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. She has a two page spread on the stuff with different broth options, different soup options, and a whole list of optional garnishes. It can be as simple or as complex as you like based on what you add to it. Here is what I usually do. I make a more complex broth which stars, in addition to the required kombu (a type of seaweed), dried mushrooms and carrots among other flavorings. I set aside half the broth and the now cooked mushrooms and carrots for the next night. For that night, I make a simple soup with just the broth, miso, small cubes of tofu, wakame (another kind of seaweed), and scallions. Usually I serve it with a sushi rice salad (recipe coming soon), and a green salad with this dressing. The next night, I heat up the remaining broth, add more miso, the carrots and mushrooms, more tofu, and some cooked noodles – Udon are particularly delicious. Two great meals out of one simple broth. And lots of not overheated miso goodness.
Kombu Stock with Dried Mushrooms
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Makes about 8 cups
If you want to do as I do, use half the stock for a simple miso soup (recipe follows), refrigerate the other half, and use it as described above. Don’t fear the seaweed! Any grocery store with a decent Asian section should have both kombu and wakame. While you are buying those, pick up some nori for the recipe coming in the next post!
8 dried Chinese black or shiitake mushrooms
1 bunch scallions, including most of the greens, chopped
2 carrot, thinly sliced
1- 6 inch strip dried kombu
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tsp. dark sesame oil
3 tbsp. rice wine (mirin)
Salt and sugar to taste
Shake the mushrooms in a strainer to loosen any dirt, then put them in a pot along with 9 cups of water and the rest of the ingredients except the salt and sugar. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Taste and add a pinch of salt and/or sugar to bring up the flavors. Adjust the balance of soy sauce to miring if needed. Strain the stock, but retrieve the mushrooms and carrots to use in soup.
Miso-Tofu Soup with Wakame
If you are new to Miso Soup, I would suggest buying white miso which is more mellow than some of the other varieties. If you want a stronger flavor, try the barley miso.
8 leaves dried wakame “leaves”
4 cups kombu stock
3 tbsp. miso
1/2 – 1 cup finely diced silken tofu, soft or firm
3 scallions, including a little bit of the greens, thinly sliced
Soak the wakame in lukewarm water until soft, about 15 minutes. Feel for any tough parts and cut them away – there’s usually kind of a core. Tear the rest into smaller pieces or slice them into thin ribbons. Bring the stock to a boil.
Dilute the miso with 1 cup of the stock. Whisk it around so that all the miso dissolves. Add the wakame and tofu to the remaining stock and simmer until the tofu has risen to the surface, 4 – 5 minutes. Stir the diluted miso back into the pot and bring nearly to a boil. Add the scallions and serve.