Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup consisting of a stock called “dashi” into which softened miso paste is mixed. Many ingredients are added depending on regional and seasonal recipes, and personal preference.
The choice of miso paste for the miso soup defines a great deal of its character and flavour. Miso pastes can be categorized into red (akamiso), white (shiromiso), or mixed (awase). There are many variations within these themes, including regional variations, such as Shinshū miso or Sendai miso. Refer to Miso
The most common dashi soup stocks for miso soup are made of niboshi (dried baby sardines), kombu (dried kelp), katsuobushi (thin shavings of dried and smoked bonito, aka skipjack tuna), or hoshi-shiitake (dried shiitake). The kombu can also be used in combination with katsuobushi or hoshi-shiitake. The kelp and/or shiitake dashi serve as a vegetarian soup stock.
Outside Japan, American or European style miso soup is sometimes made by dissolving miso in a Western vegetable stock. The stock might include ingredients such as negi, carrot, potato and daikon radish. In some versions of the dish chicken stock, Western-style fish stock, and other non-dashi bases can even be used, but there is some debate over whether or not miso soups made using these non-traditional bases count as true misoshiru. Christian Japanese refugees who came to the Philippines during the Edo period brought along miso soup, but the Filipino recipe sinigang differs mainly by the inclusion of tamarind, which gives it a more sour taste than the original Japanese version. Refer to Dashi
Solid Ingredients in Miso Soup
According to Japanese custom, the solid ingredients are chosen to reflect the seasons and to provide contrasts of color, texture, and flavour. Thus negi and tofu, a strongly flavoured ingredient mixed with a delicately flavoured ingredient, are often combined. Ingredients that float, such as wakame seaweed, and ingredients that sink, such as potatoes, are also combined. Ingredients may include mushrooms, potatoes, seaweed, onion, shrimp, fish, and grated or sliced daikon. Nearly any Japanese ingredient is added to some type of misoshiru. However, misoshiru does not typically contain many ingredients beyond the stock and miso.
If pork is added to miso soup, it is called Tonjiru , meaning “pork soup”.
Preparation and Serving of Miso Soup
Miso soup can be prepared in several ways, depending on the chef and the style of soup. Japanese recipes usually call for most vegetables and meats to be cooked in the simmering dashi, particularly mushrooms, daikon, carrots, potatoes, tofu, and fish. The miso is suspended separately in some dashi stock removed from the simmering mix, to keep the miso paste from cooking, which alters the flavour, kills beneficial bacteria, and reduces the health benefits of biologically active miso paste. When the vegetables are cooked, the stock is removed from heat, the miso suspension is added and mixed into the soup, any uncooked ingredients are added, and the dish is served.
In Japan, miso soup and white rice make up the central dishes of the traditional Japanese breakfast. The soup has been a favourite of commoners and royalty alike for many centuries, but there are also many other dishes involving breakfast. They are all quite small, some include egg, fish, and natto which is a fermented soy bean. The soup is usually served in lacquer bowls with lids and drunk directly from the bowl, though the solid ingredients are eaten with chopsticks.
- 4 cups water
- ⅓ cup miso
- 3 spring onions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon shredded nori or wakame seaweed
- ½ block firm silken tofu, cut into 2 - 3 cm cubes
- dash soy sauce (optional)
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
- Bring water to a slow simmer and add seaweed. Allow to simmer at least 5-6 minutes. The longer you simmer the seaweed, the less of a salty fishy flavour it will have.
- Reduce heat to very low and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until miso is well dissolved. Its best not to boil the miso, as this will ruin some of it's healthy properties as well as change the flavour of the soup.