Miso Soup Hack

  1. What is miso soup?
  2. Health benefits of miso soup
  3. Miso soup basics – ingredients and how to cook
  4. For miso soup lovers – a variation of recipes!


1.What is miso soup?

When talking of Japanese soup, the most common is miso soup. It is made by cooking vegetables, seafood or meat in dashi broth and adding dissolved miso.

Miso soup = Dashi broth + Ingredients (vegetables, seaweed, fish and/or meat) + Miso

Miso soup without dashi is often found outside Japan, and is made with ingredients just boiled in plain water and miso added. However, good-tasting miso soup cannot be made like that. “Dashi” is a key component of miso soup. There is a variety of dashi, some are instant and handy which come in granules, liquid or packaged, while others are made by boiling natural ingredients such as konbu kelp, shiitake mushrooms or niboshi dried sardines. If you don’t have time, or natural ingredients are hard to get, you can use the “instant dashi soup” mentioned above.  There are many natural ingredients based “instant dashi” products with no addictive. In any case, dashi is a must. If you keep that in mind, you can make delicious miso soup anytime!

2. Health benefits of miso soup

Miso, a main ingredient of miso soup, is a fermented food made from soybeans, salt and koji.  It is rich in nutrition (see here for the health benefits of miso).  Having miso soup for breakfast warms up your internal organs and activates your sympathetic nervous system, and helps burn fat with its vitamin B complex which supports your body’s metabolism.

3. Miso soup basics – ingredients and how to prepare

As stated above, miso soup consists of three components, dashi broth, an array of ingredients and miso.

Miso soup = Dashi broth + Ingredients (vegetables, seaweed, fish and/or meat) + Miso

Now, let me explain how to choose each component step by step.

 

Dashi broth

Authentic Japanese dashi is made from boiling konbu kelp, bonito flakes or niboshi. Miso soup made with high quality dashi is truly delicious and well worth a try. However, when you want to prepare miso soup easily, such natural ingredients can be hard to get. Actually, not all Japanese make such authentic dashi every day. There are many tasty instant dashi soups which you can simply add to boiling water. Hopefully you can find dashi that suits your palate.

See here for how to make dashi in detail.

What is dashi?

Dashi Stock and Seasonings

 

Ingredients – what are in miso soup?

Some of the most common ingredients for miso soup are tofu and wakame. What should we choose to put in the miso soup? The answer is anything. Put in vegetables, fish, meat or seaweed that you like from your refrigerator. Nearly any ingredients you find in regular soup can also go well in miso soup. As for vegetables, adding daikon, cabbage, leek, Chinese cabbage, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, and so on is good. You can put in one kind of vegetable, or combinations of some vegetables and fish. The measurements of ingredients given in miso soup recipes are useful, but you don’t always have to follow them. Put in as much as you want of what you like. Very few Japanese measure the exact amount of each ingredient given in the recipe in their homes (as far as I know…)

See here for miso soup recipe with various ingredients.

Miso

Frist of all, miso is classified by the main ingredient such as rice, wheat and soybeans.  Even though the main ingredients are the same, they have variations such as “Amakuchi” meaning less salty, and “Karakuchi” meaning salty.  Each variation has a different flavor and taste. These differences of ingredients and flavor are due to the region of production in Japan. For example, Shinshu-miso is karakuchi and its main ingredient is rice.  It is called red miso. On the other hand, miso produced in Kinki region, such as Kyoto, is also made with rice as the main ingredient, but its flavor is amakuchi and white in color.  It is called white miso. This is not about which kind is the best, but what you prefer.  It is good to try different kinds of miso.  Choose the one that is right for you. When you are in a Japanese restaurant and like the taste of miso in a miso soup, try asking the chef “What kind of miso is it?” or “Which region did the miso come from?” Miso produced in the same region tastes alike because the mixtures of ingredients are similar in the same region. I always have some kind of miso in my refrigerator.  I pick the flavor of miso depending on how I feel that day. Sometimes I combine two kinds of miso. This is called “Awase-miso”.  Mixing more than one kind of miso brings out the good flavors in each.

How to cook miso soup?

Miso soup is easy to make. Just follow three simple steps.

  1. Make dashi broth.
  2. Simmer ingredients in the dashi.
  3. Dissolve miso and add it to the dish.

That is all. Please do not forget the step 1, making dashi.

Step1: Making dashi broth

Major natural ingredients for dashi are kombu kelp, shiitake mushrooms , katsuobushi (dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna flakes),or niboshi dried sardines. Here is the basic methods of making dashi using kombu.

There are two ways:

Mizu-dashi: Gently clean the dashi kombu with a damp cloth and let it soak in water overnight in the refrigerator. It has a very delicate flavor and is mainly used for “shojin-ryori (Japanese vegetarian cuisine that originated from the Japanese Zen temples).

Ni-dashi: Put water and dashi kombu in a pot. Soak the kombu for 20 minutes. Heat up the pot slowly to 70℃ and take out the kombu.

dashi07

If you use instant dashi that comes in granules, liquid or packed, follow the instruction described on the product package. Most of such instant dashi can be used by putting it in water and heat.

Step2: Simmer the Ingredients

Put vegetables, fish, meat or seaweed in the dashi made in step 1 and simmer.  If you use meat or fish, cook them well in this step.

Step3: Dissolve Miso and Add

When the ingredients in step 2 are cooked and ready to eat, turn off the heat. Then add miso. Here is a final tip on how to make good miso soup. Never let the broth boil when you are putting the miso in. Heating miso for too long will make its aroma fade away. That is why we turn off the heat when the ingredients are cooked. Wait for the broth to stop boiling and then dissolve the miso and pour it in. After that, heat the miso soup again but do not boil this time. Turn off the heat just before it comes to a boil. This is the best timing to enjoy the flavor of miso. That is all. Well, were the instructions easy to follow? Again, the most important things are definitely making dashi as mentioned in step 1, and never to boil the broth when you put in miso as mentioned in step 3.

 

4. For miso soup lovers – a variation of recipes!

Now, if you have mastered the basic miso soup recipe, you can enjoy making various miso soups! Have fun tasting miso soup with a variation by changing dashi, ingredients and miso. Moreover, to make some final touches, adding butter or soy milk can provide a rich flavor. Ginger or yuzu-kosho pepper can give it a pungent flavor. Toban-jan (chilli bean sauce), curry powder, or fish sauce can add an ethnic flavor to your soup.

Miso soup is Japanese soul food. Please try the traditional taste of Japanese miso soup. Although this doesn’t mean you have to stick to the traditional miso soup. Feel free to add any ingredients and seasonings you like. Enjoy miso soup with many variations!

 

Miso Soup Recipes