Miso-the ancient super food. First brought to Japan from China by Buddhist priests around 1,300 years ago it was originally consumed by nobility because it was considered a delicacy. At that time it contained rice which was expensive.
Miso’s fame spread when it became known for its rich energy-giving properties and was adopted by samurai as a staple part of their diet.
Miso is made from fermented soybeans and grains and contains millions of beneficial bacteria. It’s also a good source of B vitamins, vitamins E, K and folic acid. There are various types and blends but the most common is made from fermented soybeans. This is usually the kind that I use daily. Sometimes I use mugi-miso or barley miso. Some miso is saltier, some sweeter and some fermented longer.
Miso is a protein-rich paste and we add it to various dishes. It adds a wonderful flavor base to soup. I also muddle it with mirin and use it to season stir-fried vegetables. Sometimes I spread it on fish that is cooked in a pan. It is lovely muddled with mirin and added to stir-fried eggplant that is then sprinkled with sesame seeds.
There are a variety of ways that you can make miso soup-this is how I make ours.
Basic Home-Style Japanese Miso Soup
Dashi- I used to use powdered dashi which is made from fish. When my husband was diagnosed with diabetes we started to order liquid dashi that is made from kombu or seaweed (kombu is seaweed-not to be confused with a concoction called “kombucha” which is not Japanese and not seaweed). We switched to the liquid kombu-dashi at the recommendation of my husband’s doctor.
I use a 5 cup sauce pan.
Making the soup: One note-my husband is a diabetic and needs a very low salt diet so my measurements are for his diet. You can adjust the dashi and miso to suit your taste. The recipe is flexible. Although-I eat the same food and am much healthier for it. My blood pressure was high before but, since I started eating low salt, my blood pressure is normal. No more headaches either.
First you have to make the dashi- or the base. I fill the sauce pan about 3/4 full of water and add a tablespoon and a half of liquid kombu-dashi.
Then I slice the carrots, I cut the Chinese cabbage into small pieces, maybe some sliced onions, even a few mushrooms-and add them all to the pot. I throw in a spoonful of dried seaweed or add fresh seaweed if I have it. I let the veggies simmer for a few minutes.
Many people add a potato cut into small cubes. Because of my husband’s dietary restrictions I don’t.
After about 5 minutes or so I add 2 tablespoons of miso paste and use my long-handled cooking chopsticks to stir the paste around until it is pretty much dissolved.
Then I turn the gas down low and simmer the soup until the vegetables are cooked.
That’s it. It is a very easy soup to make and it is very flexible. Different areas around Japan might have their own twist -but this is how it is generally cooked in our area.
If you have an Asian store near you with Japanese products you will probably be able to find the powdered dashi. It is a staple product and can be found in almost every Japanese kitchen. Every Asian store that I have ever been in (outside of Japan) has this product. It is called hon-dashi and made from fish.
Happy cooking-let me know how your soup turned out!