My wife Jan has her college friends staying over the weekend. Her friends come with a long list of food restrictions—no wheat, rye, barley, tomatoes, citrus, or lactose—so it is quite the challenge. Japanese cuisine tends to have few of the ingredients I needed to avoid. I decided I would make miso soup, sushi, and a selection of Japanese pickles—cabbage and mixed vegetables.
Miso soup is really the one of the base broths of Japanese soups—meaning that it has dashi and miso paste. On that base, you can build any number of soups, depending on what you add—from a single additional ingredient to a full meal of ingredients. Today, I decided to add tofu, wakame, enoki, and green onions.
Dash is a bonito/seaweed broth that is a starting point of many Japanese recipes—there are three methods of making dashi. Miso comes as a very thick salty paste of ground soybeans fermented with a fungus called koji—there may be several other additions, such as rice, barley, seaweed or other ingredients. I once asked how much miso do you add to the soup and the response was “as much as you add”—i.e. to taste.
Tofu is a soybean “cheese”—the beans are ground, boiled, and then curdled by adding a coagulant. It is sold in soft, firm, and very firm forms—soft or firm are best for soup. Wakame is a green seaweed that is usually sold dried—it may be cut into thin strips or in large pieces before it is dried. When rehydrated, a very small amount will expand into a lot of sea vegetables—if you are just learning to use it, start small.
Karl’s Tofu Miso Soup
6 cups dashi (see above for how to make dashi)
2 bags DashiNoMoto (or use other methods for making dashi)
¼ cup white miso
1 pkg. enoki mushrooms (3.5 oz)
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, cut into slivers
5 green onions, separate uses
2 Tbs. wakame, uncut
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 bags—or strain out the solids from the soup stock.
Tip: The dashi can be stored at this point overnight, if necessary.
3. Put the miso in a small cup and mix in some hot water or dashi.
Note: While I have suggested using a quarter cup of miso you may use more—or less—to your own tastes. By mixing the thick paste with a hot liquid you avoid ending up with undissolved lumps of miso at the bottom of your soup. Some miso is also very course and has chunks of soy beans mixed into the paste. Some cooks strain out the chunks before using it in a soup.
4. Cut the dirty roots off of the mushrooms, and break them 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 you may cut the enoki in half to make them easier to eat.
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. Cut the ginger into fine slivers.
6. Cut the white parts of the green onion into one inch pieces.
Note: I used the white parts of green onions that were left over from my sushi.
7. Slice the green parts of the onions and set them aside.
8. Add the miso, enoki, ginger, white parts of the green onion, and the wakame to the pot.
9. Simmer the soup 5-10 minutes.
10. Transfer the soup to individual bowls and garnish with the green onion tops.