Thursday, January 24, 2008

Miso Soup

miso soup

Miso soup is a staple for Japanese meals, especially breakfast. It is supposed to be healthy for you (but sorry, I am not an expert or a student of Japanese food, just a simple housewife, so I can't tell you how it's good for you. And if you need to cut salt from your diet, you probably shouldn't have too much miso.) In the US, when I had miso soup, it was basically tofu and wakame. After several months of tofu and wakame miso soup, my boyfriend (now husband) asked me why I only used those two ingredients. That's when I learned you could put anything you want into miso soup. (At the time, I would also make daikon and carrot miso soup occasionally, but honestly, tofu and wakame is just so easy.)

There are many different kinds of miso, from lightly salty to very salty. Also, there are many varieties with additions, such as dashi or grains. I suggest trying different kinds of miso. Start out with a caramel brown (but not too light, that is white miso) and go from there. My personal favorite is Furusato no Asa, which seems to be a Fukuoka company. I also get a local miso from a local farmer's market which has grain (mugi I think) which is more expensive than brand miso, but really delicious.

Furusato no Asa miso:

furusato no asa miso

The recipe I'm sharing today I got from a recipe site on my cell phone. I like it, and it's easy to remember. I also never follow it any more! These days I just measure by eye, and a little by taste, and rarely have a miss. I think that once you get the hang of it, the miso soup you make is your own.

Miso Soup

4 cups water
1 tsp. hondashi (dashi powder)
2-4 Tbsp. miso (depending on type of miso you are using)
1 cho tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes (I find this to be too much tofu and use only 1/2 cho (block))
a pinch of dried wakame (depending on how much you want, but it will increase in size)

Add wakame to a small bowl of warm water to soften (about 10 minutes). Rinse wakame and cut or tear into bite-sized pieces. Bring water and hondashi to a boil. Reduce heat and add miso*, then cubed tofu. Over low heat, warm tofu but do not allow soup to boil (that will separate the miso). When the tofu begins to float, it is heated through. Turn off heat and add the wakame. Serve in miso soup bowls with cut green onion.

*Add miso to stock slowly. One way is to put some stock in a little bowl, add miso to that and mix until smooth, then adding to the pot. Another is to do that right in a ladle. Still another is to use a small sieve. If you just add miso to the soup, it may not blend well and you'll have clumps of miso.

So, I do not follow this recipe exactly any more. I just go by 'eye'. After a while, I think one just goes by what they like, each miso soup is different. Very rarely, I have a miss. My husband and children, and even my mother--who hates miso soup--loves mine. Add a little miso at a time and taste. Once you've added too much miso, you cannot fix it. I recommend using a small sieve. You can find them at any 100 yen store. I got a set (sieve and spoon) which is great:

mix the miso

I haven't introduced hondashi yet. This is a powder which cooks use as a shortcut for making dashi stock. I have made dashi stock from fish flakes but honestly, it's a lot of hard work for not much dashi, and I personally cannot tell the difference. I also use a small amount because I don't like fish. However, miso soup does not taste the same if you just use water. Here is the brand and type of hondashi I like to use:

hon dashi


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