Tuesday, January 8, 2008
My First Miso
When a friend of mine asked me what was to come next on this here website, I told him that I was planning an entry for miso soup. “Miso soup is so boring,” he said. “I don’t care,” I replied, “I could eat miso soup four times a day.”
And it’s true– boring or not, I have an unparalleled love for miso soup. I’m not quite sure why, it is such a simple thing, tasting mostly salt while faintly calling to mind the ocean (a characteristic that I not long ago discovered is imparted upon the soup by the use of a stock often made from seaweed and dried fish – in no way, of course, does this news affect my love for miso).
Miso soup had no real place in my childhood, my parents never made it for me when I was sick. There was never any miso soup when we went for dinner at my Grandma Minnie’s house – no doubt she made the best damn matzoh balls the world has ever seen, but I can only imagine that the word “miso” was not found in any of the four languages she spoke. Yes chicken soup has a place in my heart that can never be compromised – the effect of nostalgia and sentiment on this cannot be ignored though. I just really, really enjoy miso soup, nostalgia aside.
I cannot enter a Japanese restaurant without ordering a bowl – I am pretty sure I have been stricken with a mental impairment that has rendered me utterly incapable of saying no to miso. Often I am taken aback by how much a restaurant will charge for a measly bowl of soup. Borderline addicted to the stuff, I, with rare exception, comply and enjoy my miso. Especially when the weather gets cold, there is nothing that quite calms and warms me like a steaming bowl of miso soup.
When Andrew asked me the other day whether there was something I might want from Chinatown, my thoughts immediately went to miso. I figured if I could make my own miso, I could enjoy it at my will. So miso paste made its way, thanks to Andrew, from Chinatown to the kitchen.
I did a few quick recipe searches to see what else I needed and was on my way to my first miso.
The recipe I used as guidance I found on About.com. It’s a really straightforward recipe, and is in fact the first one that comes up when “Miso Soup Recipe” is entered into Google. It seemed simple and most of the recipes I looked at were essentially the same so I just went with the first one. The ingredients aren’t the most common, but once they’re in hand the soup comes together in a snap.
I found dashi at the grocery store around the corner from me. Dashi is a stock that’s usually made from seaweed or dried fish and is most commonly available in its powdered or condensed form. I looked around a bit for dried seaweed to throw in with the miso in lieu of the green onions, but I couldn’t find any in the stores around my apartment. I’m sure another trip to Chinatown would prove fruitful.
It is my understanding that the Japanese eat miso soup with every meal, breakfast included. I have never doubted their reasoning for this – the simple deliciousness and the inner warmth miso soup brings is enough to make me want to eat it three times a day. Now that I know how easy it really is to make, I might do just that.
Adapted from About.com’s Miso Soup Recipe
1 teaspoon dashi
3 cups of water
3 ½ Tablespoons miso paste
6-8 ounces firm silken tofu
1/8 – ¼ cup sliced green onions
Mix the dashi into the water in a medium pot and heat to a boil. Lower the heat and bring the soup to a simmer.
Cut the tofu into small dice and simmer in stock for a few minutes. Ladle some stock from pot into a cup or bowl with the miso paste. Mix to combine until all the lumps are gone and the mixture is smooth. Return the mixture to the pot and simmer for a couple of minutes. Make sure that after the miso paste is in the pot the soup does not come to a boil. Remove from heat, add the green onions and serve immediately. Delicious.