During the rainy days and the cold weather, nothing beats a hot and hearty soup. However, if you want to try something different, you can try exploring East Asia. Simply for the reason that soups are a staple part of an Asians’ diet.
Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the soup is what makes a complete meal for a lot of Asians. Due to the usually cold weather in East Asian countries, soups and noodles are very common among their nationals.
But warming you up is not the only thing a soup can do. Its warm temperature is also very good for improving the whole digestive process that’s about to happen in your stomach. Packed with vitamins and minerals, both vegetable and meat-based soups can be very healthy.
Which is why today, we will be featuring a simple Miso soup recipe that will surely warm your hearts and bellies. Miso soup is a very famous appetizer and palette cleanser in Japan. Its flavor is not too overpowering, but also not too bland!
Things you will need for Miso
Although making the miso soup itself is not really a very complicated process, finding the ingredients might be a little challenging. This is the case especially if the base ingredients are not common in your area.
Making the dashi stock - Option for your own stock
Dashi is a kind of stock used for cooking various Japanese dishes. It mostly resembles a fish stock because of its salty and light taste. Miso soup is one of the best dishes that benefits from this salty taste. There are different methods on how to make dashi stock, which we will further discuss below.
If you cannot find the original ingredients used for making dashi stock, you can substitute them with instant dashi. These are either in powder form, granulated or in cubes. You can also use your own fish stock here. However, I’d highly recommend that you stick to naturally made dashi for the best flavor.
Niboshi: Making dashi from sardines
Niboshi is made with small dried sardines or anchovies soaked in water. However, it is also important to note that removing the heads and entrails of the sardines should not be skipped. This is what will keep the niboshi from tasting very bitter.
Since the sardines or anchovies are dried, it will not only give the stock saltiness, but smokiness as well. Using this technique is quite uncommon, however. That’s because of the Niboshi’s intricacy.
Shiitake: A vegetarian option
Another ingredient used to make dashi stock would be shiitake mushrooms. Dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in water makes for a very flavorful dashi stock. This is because of the glutamates present in it as well as in the other ingredients listed above.
If you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, using dried shiitake mushrooms is the optimal choice. You’d lose a little depth in the saltiness of the stock, but it’s delicious nonetheless.
After you choose the right stock, here are the main ingredients for miso soup
Konbu is kelp or dried seaweed. Konbu is one of the most common ingredients used for making dashi stock. It’s also one of the most effective in delivering that authentic taste.
Thus, for today’s article, I’ll be using Konbu and the ingredient below this. Konbu, along with niboshi or katsuobushi (fermented skipjack tuna) provides your miso with that right amount of umami or savory taste.
Bonito is also a type of dried fish used in miso soups. However, instead of the actual fish, the Japanese usually use dried bonito flakes to flavor their miso soup. These are the thin, almost translucent brown flakes you usually see in other Japanese foods like takoyaki or okonomiyaki.
Although you can make dashi stock with bonito flakes only, I’ll take it to another level by adding Konbu.
Miso or miso paste is one, if not the most important ingredient. There are three kinds of miso paste that you can use: white, yellow and red miso paste. White miso is the most common, and we’ll be using that for today’s recipe.
The soft tofu is what gives the miso soup a little more bite and protein. Soft tofu or silken tofu, any can do as long as the texture is soft and compatible to your miso soup. The softness is important because it needs to cook quickly.
Onion chives or Spring onions
If you want to have an oniony bite to your soup, then chives or spring onions are a must. This will give a new dimension to the flavor of the miso. Not to mention, it gives the soup more body and nutrients!
Japanese miso soup step by step directions
Step 1: Heat water in a pot
The first step would be to get a pot and fill it up with lukewarm water. Although this may sound easy, there’s one important tip here: Do not heat it too much.
What do we mean by that? Boiling the water rapidly can cause accidents. Not to mention, we’re not handling any meats here. The bonito, konbu, and tofu can all break down if you have a raging heat. Try to keep the gas on a medium-low to avoid this.
Step 2: Prepare the dashi ingredients
As mentioned a while ago, you can use any of what we listed in making the stock. However, the best option for flavour is to go with bonito and konbu. To do this, get a handful of bonito flakes.
Here, I’m using around three tablespoons of bonito flakes. This can easily serve 4-6 people. As for the konbu, depending on the size, use one or two. Since the kelp is small here, I’m using two.
Step 3: Boil the konbu and bonito
Place the konbu and bonito in the simmering water with a ladle. At the very least, wait for the stock to form in five minutes of gently simmering. However, if you want a stronger taste, you can boil the konbu and bonito for as long as you want.
Just be cautious that it can taste too salty!
Step 4: Chop the spring onions
Next, get a stalk of spring onions or chives. When chopping, it’s recommended that you chop it diagonally for more texture. It also looks more appealing! You’ll only need one or two stalks, depending on your preference. Once chopped, set it aside.
Step 5: Dice the soft tofu
I’m using about 75 grams of tofu for this recipe. When dicing, cut the tofu in squares first. Afterwards, stack them together and proceed to cut it horizontally and vertically. By dicing the tofu, we make sure that it takes in the soup a lot better. It also cooks the tofu quicker!
Step 6: Remove the konbu and bonito
After chopping, your dashi stock should be ready. Scoop out the bonito flakes and konbu kelp using a mesh strainer. Make sure none of the two remain in the soup. This avoids any bitterness in your miso soup.
Step 7: Add the tofu
Get the mesh strainer and add your tofu using it to avoid spills. Make sure the heat is gently simmering. Strong boiling can literally destroy your tofu’s texture and flavour.
Step 8: Add the miso paste
To add the miso paste, scoop two-three tablespoons of the paste and add it on the strainer. Afterwards, gently melt the miso paste by running the back of the ladle around the strainer. The importance of this is we avoid creating lumps of miso in the soup.
Be sure to gently melt the miso until it is fully dissolved. Always be in the lookout for lumps. If there are, get the strainer again and catch it.
At this stage, be sure the heat is low. It’s important that you don’t boil miso because it will lose a lot of its flavour and nutrients.
Step 9: Taste the soup
At this stage, it’s important to now taste your miso soup. It’s approaching its last stages, so this is the time to know if it’s too salty. Take a few sips and check if it’s too salty for you, or if it’s lacking in miso paste.
There should be a right balance in earthiness from the miso, and saltiness from the dashi. If it’s too overpowering, add a few tablespoons of water. If it’s quite lacking, adding a few more scoops of miso paste should do the trick.
Step 10: Add the spring onions and serve
There are two ways to go about this. The first is to cook the spring onion while the miso soup is still in the pot. It’s best to do this method if you like soft onions that are a less harsh. However, if you like an extra crunch, add the spring onions once you’ve served it in a bowl.
If you’re using chives, it’s highly recommended that you put it in the final minute to avoid wilting. Make sure that the serving has a good balance of tofu and spring onions!
Here’s the best part! Always remember to mix your soup first with a spoon before sipping. This allows the miso to mix it nicely with the dashi. Oh, and don’t forget that it’s hot!
That’s a wrap
So, there you have it folks! Miso soup is so easy to do, and it will definitely give you a taste of Japanese cuisine. However, don’t stop here. Try to cook other great Japanese dishes that compliment miso soup.
You can serve this with so many options! Salmon, mackerel, breaded pork, and so on. However, it’s also great to slurp it during a cold night. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this article. If you found it informative, don’t hesitate to share it to your friends! Good luck!