I was recently watching public television when my pal Ming Tsai’s show “Simply Ming” came on.
He was traveling in Japan for this episode, visiting a Miso factory and preparing some home cooked traditional Miso-centric dishes with a local Japanese mother and daughter. He toured a traditional factory and highlighted the ancient and fascinating traditions of making Miso. They ferment the soybeans and then place the soy mixture in 50 to 100 year old vats, then the rock masters (yes I said rock masters, whose job it is to precisely place rocks on top of the vat of soy beans) place the rocks atop the vat for perfect weight distribution. They then let the soy ferment for years, the exact length of time depends on what type of Miso they are making.
Ming made a few temping Miso based dishes that prompted me to take a trip to the Asian market and to prepare my own Miso inspired meal. I thought I would share my Miso Soup recipe because it is truly one of the simplest, most satisfying and healthy soups you could ever make. It is also a soup for all seasons, so whether it’s spring, summer, winter or fall, this soup will hit the spot.
Dashi is Japanese stock and it’s a thousand times easier to make than the beef and chicken stock that we are accustomed to. For Miso soup the traditional Dashi is made with Kombu (seaweed) and Bonito Flakes (dried fish). The first step is to take 6 cups of water and add 1 large piece of kombu to the water, bring that to a boil and turn off the heat. Add about a cup of bonito flakes to the water and let sit for 2 minutes. Drain the liquid and discard the seaweed and fish flakes and you have your dashi. Note if you cannot find the bonito and kombu, you could also make a mushroom Dashi, all you do for this is take 6 cups of water and add 8 dried shiitake mushrooms or other dried mushrooms to the water and boil for about 3 minutes, turn off the water and let the mushrooms step for 5 minutes and drain. The mushroom dashi also serves as a great quick vegetable stock.
Take your Dashi and stir in your Miso. I used Shiro Miso or Yellow Miso which most grocery stores in the city carry. Sometimes it is refrigerated and sometimes not, but always refrigerate it after opening. I add about a half cup of Miso and it is okay to add more or less to your taste. I garnish with a few scallions and about a tablespoon of diced soft tofu, but you can omit that if you chose.
There are lots of other applications for Miso. I love to mix a little sesame oil, agave nectar, ginger and mirin in with it, brush it on fish or tofu and pop it under the broiler. You can use this same mixture and stir in with sautéed vegetables as nice side dish for some steamed fish.
I would love to hear how you are using Miso at home, so please share your ideas in the comments.