I am made a Japanese meal last Sunday. Chicken teriyaki skewers, rice balls, inari and various pickles. No Japanese meal would be complete without miso soup.
Miso soup is an almost daily staple of a Japanese diet. In the West, many soups start with a base of chicken broth. In Japan most soups start with dashi.
Note: The dried soup base, HonDashi, is sold in most supermarkets—at least on the West Cost. Like many Asian products, instructions nonexistent or only in the native language. As one person said to me when asked, “You put in as much as you put in.” The link above recommends 1 tsp. of HonDashi per cup of water.
Fresh is still better. Dashi has only two ingredients and is very quick and easy to make. A piece of kombu—dried kelp—is soaked in warm water. You then add some shaved bonita—dried fish flakes—and gently boil it for five minutes. Filtering out the solids leaves you with dashi.
In its simplest form, miso soup is just dashi and miso, a fermented paste usually made from soybeans. What other ingredients you add depend on your personal tastes and what’s in the kitchen. Three or four additions with contrasting colors and textures would be ideal.
Karl’s Miso Soup II
8 cups water
2 (6-inch) pieces kombu
1 1/2 oz. dried, shaved bonito
2 oz. enoki mushrooms (½ package)
½ cup fresh (soft) tofu
3 green onions
Preparing the Dashi
1. Add warm water and kombu to a stock pot and let it steep for 30 minutes.
2. Bring the stockpot to a boil over medium heat and remove the kombu.
3. Add the bonito and stir it once to mix it in. As soon as the liquid boils again, decrease the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
Tip: Remove any scum that appears on the surface.
4. Turn off the heat and let the liquid steep for 15 minutes.
5. Strain the broth through a fine sieve or cheesecloth.
Tip: Don’t squeeze the bonito flakes to get all of the liquid out, because it would make the dashi cloudy.
Note: Discard the bonito flakes after use.
Preparing the soup
6. While the dashi is steeping, prep all of the other ingredients as follows and set aside.
7. Trim the roots of the enoki mushrooms and separate into small bunches.
8. Slice the tofu into ½ inch dice.
9. Cut the green onions on a long bias, keeping the white and green parts separate.
Note: Once you are ready to start bringing the soup together, there is little time for prep-work.
10. Distribute the tofu evenly between the individual soup bowls.
Note: The tofu does not need to be cooked. The hot soup is all the warming it needs.
11. Ten minutes before serving, add the dashi, enoki, white parts of the green onion, and wakame to your soup pot and bring to it to a boil.
12. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup for five minutes.
13. Place the miso in a small bowl and add some of the soup broth.
Tip: Mix until the miso is no longer lumpy.
14. Add the miso to the soup and stir in.
15. Cook for another 3 minutes, but do not boil.
16. Use chopsticks to evenly distribute the mushrooms into the bowls.
17. Ladle the rest of the soup into the bowls.
18. Garnish each bowl with some of the green parts of the green onion.
Note: When you first pour the soup into the bowls it will be uniformly cloudy. You may serve it this way, but if you let them sit for a few minutes the miso will settle to the bottom of the bowl. When you carefully bring the bowls to the table, there will be a clear broth on top and the other ingredients peeking out of a cloud of miso. It does not change the flavor of the soup, but it makes for a nice presentation.