Several of the recipes I am making for this Sunday’s dinner called for dashi—a few tablespoons here and a cup there. If I’m going to make dashi, I might as well make a miso soup. However, since I am making a lot of dishes this meal, I wanted it to be a simple soup with only a few ingredients.
There are three methods of making dashi:
1) The quickest and easiest is to use HonDashi granules—1+ teaspoons per cup of water. I have always had trouble with this method, because my dashi comes out either too weak or too strong. There is also the problem of that the granules are mostly salt and monosodium glutamate— while it is a natural substance, it is a compound that gives many Westerners a headache after they have consumed too much of it.
Note: You cannot avoid monosodium glutamate completely, as it naturally occurs in tomatoes and many other foods.
2) The traditional method of making is to simmer kombu seaweed for ten minutes. You then simmering ½ oz. of dried bonito shavings per cup for ten minutes before straining out the solids. While this method is more work, it has the advantage of producing a soup base that does not contain any MSG.
3) A happy medium is to use what is basically a dashi teabag—DashiNoMoto—filled with ground kombu and bonito, as well as dried sardines and mackerel. You use one bag per three cups of water, which is simmered for ten minutes and then removed. While these bags contain a small amount of MSG—it is the last item on the ingredients list—it produces a complex flavorful broth.
While I have suggested using two tablespoons of miso you may use more—or less—to your own tastes. Miso comes as a very thick paste. By mixing it with a hot liquid you avoid ending up with undissolved lumps of miso at the bottom of your soup. Some miso is very course and has bits of soy beans mixed into the paste. Some cooks strain out the chunks before using it in a soup.
Karl’s Enoki Miso Soup
6 cups dashi (see above for how to make dashi)
6 cups water
2 bags DashiNoMoto (or use other methods for making dashi)
5-6 slices of fresh ginger, cut into coins
1 Tbs. Japanese soy sauce
1 Tbs. mirin
2 Tbs. white miso
1pkg. enoki mushrooms (3.5 oz)
2 green onions, green parts only, finely sliced
1. Put six cups of water into a pot and add the ingredients to turn the water into dashi.
Note: Choose the method above which suits your preferences.
2. Remove the tea bages—or strain out the solids from the soup stock.
Tip: The dashi can be stored at this point overnight, if necessary.
Note: I am using about a cup and a half of the dashi to use in other dishes.
3. Put the miso in a small cup and mix in some hot water or some of the dashi.
4. Cut the dirty roots off of the mushrooms, cut the enoki in half, and into smaller bundles.
Tip: Enoki are about 4 inches long—after they have been trimmed—which makes them a bit long to fit in a spoon without sliding off.
Note: You may have to cut off an inch or more at the base of the mushrooms. Enoki mushrooms grow in the rotting stumps of trees. When you buy them, they come in a tight bundle, with the debris of the stump still clinging to the base of the stems.
5. Add the enoki, and miso to the pot.
6. Simmer the soup for 8-10 minutes to cook the mushrooms.
7. Transfer the soup to individual bowls and garnish with the green onion tops.