My First Attempts At Making Miso Soup

For months, Jake has begged me to make miso soup.

He finally admitted that he is not crazy about sushi or sake, but looks forward to sipping miso soup while dining at Japanese restaurants. So much so, that he longs for a large bowl of miso soup. I like miso soup, I don’t particularly crave it, so I procrastinated on his request.

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite blogs, Chow Times, published an article about making Miso Soup at home and it was the perfect inspiration I needed to begin.

First things first. . . finding specialty Asian ingredients in Fargo.  I visited the Asian & American Market on Main Street.

At the market, I easily find tofu, substituting firm for soft. I forget green onions. Bonito flakes are no where to be found, so I grab the Hondoshi brand bonito soup bouillon as seen in the Chow Times article.

Finding this ingredient feels like a minor victory and I save dashi making for another occasion. I pause at the seaweed. There are so many varieties and I don’t know what I’m looking for. The cash registers are backed up and so I grab a package that mentions “dashi.”

I find a small selection of miso paste and am immediately annoyed each package costs about 10 dollars. I resolve to use the year-old tub I bought in the Twin Cities and hope we don’t die.

The First Soup-Making Attempt
When I begun to make the soup at home, I realized that I bought the wrong kind of seaweed. The sheets were so tough I could hardly cut them with a knife and when I tried to soften them, their texture became like wet linen. The flavor was so salty and oceanic that I realized I’d made a mistake.

Instead of seaweed, I substituted a lot of shredded cabbage which was rendered silky and tender after simmering. I busted out my year-old tub of white miso paste. Having no green onions, I substituted thin shaves of red onion, adding a little to the soup and saving some as garnish.

My soup was simple but satisfying. The flavor was as good if not better than versions we’ve tried at restaurants (except for Obento-Ya), and the soup lacked any unappealing graininess. I’d love to try making miso soup with real bonito flakes, but the powdered stock was good enough and added a hint of their smokey flavor.

This afternoon, my Spoonriver Cookbook arrived in the mail.  I smiled when I noticed the recipe for Tim’s Miso Soup which also incorporates fresh cabbage, among other vegetables. I love that miso soup can be hearty enough to be a meal.

I tried again and filled my second batch with many more vegetables.

Ingredients
6 cups of water
2 teaspoons of dashi flavoring
Tofu, cut into cubes (I used firm)
Your choice of vegetables: Cabbage, carrots, onions, greens, etc.
Miso paste, starting with 5-6 teaspoons (I used white)

The Method
Bring the water to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and add the bonito soup stock.  Stir.

Gently add the tofu cubes and your choice of veggies.  I prefer a lot of each for a heartier soup.  Do not return to a boil.  Gradually dissolve in the miso paste.  You can try adding some of the hot water to your miso paste and dissolving before adding to the soup pot.  If it tastes to salty, add more water and if it tastes too bland, add more miso.

My understanding is that one should not boil the soup, in order to preserve the probiotic benefits of miso, as it is a fermented product.

Garnish with more raw onion or scallion.

4 Comments

  1. I love miso soup! I think the bonito flakes are a source of umami – so the cabbage was probably not a bad try.

    I’ve got an article about umami on my blog – stop by sometime and tell me what you think. I didn’t mention seaweed in my post because I thought it might be intimidating to my target audience… but still you might get something out of it.

    http://cookingsmartathome.blogspot.com/2012/06/is-everyone-cooking-with-umami.html

    Either way, keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks for the link Jade!

  3. This soup looks so comforting and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never tried it before! What does miso taste like, Jeni? I’m going to try this someday. On my food-bucket-list.

    • I’m having a hard time describing miso-it’s salty. Has a lot of umami flavor. Doesn’t taste funky or anything. If you go to a Japanese restaurant, they usually offer a little bowl of miso soup to start the meal. You can also use the paste to add flavor to almost anything or marinate dishes. I’ve mixed it with orange juice concentrate and put it on salmon before cooking and added it to salad dressing. I think you could also add it to marinade for meat.It does contain probiotics so you don’t want to boil it or freeze it.

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