Whenever I make a Japanese feast I usually include miso soup. The soup broth itself is quick and easy to make, by itself it is simply dashi—a Japanese soup base—with some miso added for flavoring. After that, you may add pretty much anything you have available. Today, I decided on bay scallops, tofu, enoki mushrooms, green onion, and I happened to have some daikon sprouts, because I had also made hamachi shots for this meal.
There are three methods of making dashi.
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.
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.
Note: 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 Shrimp Miso Soup
6 cups dashi (see above for how to make dashi)
2 bags DashiNoMoto (or use other methods for making dashi)
5-6 fresh ginger, cut into coins
1 Tbs. Japanese soy sauce
1 Tbs. mirin
2 Tbs. white miso
½ cup firm tofu, diced
5 green onions, white parts only
¼ red bell pepper, diced
3 green onions, green parts only, finely sliced
1 package of daikon sprouts
30-40 bay scallops
1. Put six cups of water into a pot and add the ingredients to turn the water into dashi.
Tip: In my case, the bags of DashiNoMoto, the ginger coins, soy sauce, and mirin.
Note: Choose the method above which suits your preferences.
2. While the dashi is simmering, prepare all of your additions and lay them ready to hand.
3. Dice the tofu and set it aside.
4. Dice the red bell pepper.
5. Cut the white parts of the green onions into 1½ inch pieces.
6. Slice the green parts of the green onions finely and reserve.
Note: I used the remaining green onion greens as a garnish for other dishes.
7. Trim off the roots of the daikon sprouts.
8. Remove the tea bags—or strain out the solids—from the soup stock.
Tip: The dashi can be stored at this point overnight, if necessary.
9. Put the miso in a small cup and mix in some hot water or some of the dashi and set it aside.
Note: Many recipes make a point of warning against bringing the soup to a full boil after you have add the miso.
10. Put the tofu, white parts of the green onion, and enoki into the pot.
11. Simmer the soup five minutes to cook the par cook the vegetables.
12. Add the scallops and stir in the miso mixture.
13. Simmer the soup for another five minutes.
14. Transfer the soup to individual bowls.
Tip: Divide the scallops evenly between the bowls.
15. Garnish the bowls with the red pepper, green onion tops, and radish sprouts.
16. Serve immediately, while it is still hot.
Tip: My daughter likes Shichimi togarashi served on the side to spice things up.