March 30, 2008

Miso Soup

4 1/4 cups water
4 oz extra firm tofu, diced
.5 oz bonito flakes
2 2-inch squares kombu
1/4 cup miso paste* dissolved in an equal amount of water
3/4 cup baby bok choy or seaweed cut into manageable strips

At no point do you want the water/soup to come to a full boil. Watch your soup carefully. Simmer kombu in the water in a medium pot. Bring to almost a boil, the water should be rippling. Remove the kombu. Add the bonito flakes**, return it to a high simmer for 5 minutes, then skim out the bonito. You have just made the simple dashi (broth) that is the base of miso soup. Add the cubed tofu and greens. Simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the dissolved miso and evenly distribute it. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat, allow to cool for one minute then serve.

Optional: garnish with green onions or garlic chives.

Yield: 4-6 servings

*Normally we use Shiromiso or "white" miso, but this time I used Akamiso or "red" miso. They taste slightly different from each other but both are commonly used to make miso soup.
**Optional, add a few dehydrated shiitake mushrooms at this point and remove them when you skim out the bonito then add them back in when you add the miso.

My thoughts:
Miso soup is so simple I almost hesitated to post the recipe. However, I have gotten a lot of requests for a recipe for miso soup so the last time we got sushi, I made some homemade miso soup and actually measured out my ingredients so I could share it with you. I don't do anything too radical but I do like to make my own simple broth (AKA dashi, which is a great base for a lot of Japanese cooking) instead of using instant dashi powder and I am of the "don't let it boil" school of miso soup-making. I find a high simmer (think ripples, not bubbles) yields the best flavor.

Like I said, miso soup is easy to make but it does require a few very specific ingredients. I have had no problem finding miso paste (which, incidentally, keeps for months in the refrigerator if tightly sealed), bonito flakes, kombu (a variety of kelp, you need it for making sushi rice , so it is worth keeping on hand and also has a long shelf life) at pretty much any Asian market (even Safeway sells most of it) but finding good quality wakame seaweed is sometimes an issue. I frequently just use some other kind of green: baby bok choy, kai choy, tat soi etc instead. I also like to heat up any leftovers for breakfast the next day. It isn't quite as tasty as it is freshly made but not bad.