Recipe: my first successful miso soup

I had a lot of trepidation about making delicious miso soup but it was all for nought. The recipe below got a 5-star review from hubby.

Before you start

This soup was made in Canada so it is possible! For those in Japan, this may help you avoid the mistakes I made.

Some may think that making soup in the summer is odd but miso soup is a year round staple in Hitoshi’s family home and restaurants. I do think it’s best on a cooler day when you want a warm hug from your food.

Measurements are estimated because I learned to make this soup from watching Hitoshi. Hitoshi doesn’t use recipes for cooking and neither does his mother. Both also taste as they go. I think this style of cooking is fluid and flexible but it requires attention and patience for mistakes. I have made a recipe but I hope you will experiment and discover what you prefer. Enjoy!

red miso paste

red miso paste

Things You Need

  • a big pot
  • cooking hashi/chopsticks or a small whisk
  • a deep soup ladle or a small bowl
  • a regular kitchen spoon or tablespoon
  • a sharp knife and cutting board
dashi

dashi seasoning for miso soup

Ingredients

Some ingredients will likely only be available in Asian, Korean or Japanese food stores. Try your local grocery store though, as they might surprise you!

The ingredients below usually give us, two adults and a baby, at least two meals worth of soup.

  • 1 large onion – preferably white but yellow, sweet or even red will do
  • 1 pkg, about 350g tofu – medium-firm or firm, unflavored; organic or not
  • about 2L water – filtered or not. We use filtered since our tap water is not always reliable.
  • 4g dashi  だし (½ a package of the paper tube style) – This is the seasoning that makes the soup. My mother-in-law’s favorite brand is Ajinomoto. I’ve seen it in the local Korean store. It’s expensive. It’s imported. In Japan, it’s not.
  • about 1 tbsp miso みそ– This is the other cornerstone ingredient. It’s also expensive and imported. See Notes about Miso below.
  • about 1 tbsp wakame わかめ– This is a type of seaweed. The contents of the package are deceiving! Start with less and see how much floats to the surface. While this ingredient is not critical, it is standard for our miso soup and Hitoshi’s mom always uses this seaweed or another type.

Topping

  • chopped green onion – look for plump, firm bunches that are not slimy
  • roasted sesame seeds – We can pay a lot for imported versions at Asian groceries or around $3 at the local chain grocery store. Look for it in the refrigerated section.
package of wakame

package of dried wakame or seaweed

Steps to make miso soup

1. Boil water in the pot.

2. Chop the onion. I prefer larger curls. You want to be able to pick the onion up easily with hashi (chopsticks) when you eat your soup.

3. Add dashi and wait until the water is a soft golden color. Keep the pot boiling.

4. Add onion and boil until soft. It’s okay if you forget #3 and add it after the onion.

5. Add wakame and see how much materializes. Keep the pot boiling. Add more in small amounts, if you wish.

6. Slice tofu into chunks. The easiest way is to drain the tofu but leave it in the container. Make 3 or 4 even slices both ways to make a grid. Add to the pot and cook for a few minutes until the tofu is soft. Firm and medium-firm tofu will soften but should not go mushy.

7. Keep the heat up. Scoop a ladle full of soup from the pot. Place miso in the ladle and stir gently with a whisk or cooking hashi until it is dissolved. Be patient. This will take time. If you don’t have a ladle or find this difficult, use a small bowl.

8. Pour the incorporated miso and soup back into the pot. Turn the heat down to simmer.

9. Taste the soup. If it needs more miso, add a little as per step 6, but be careful. Even if the soup does not seem to have full flavor, it still might have enough miso.

10. Ladle the soup into bowls and eat plain or add toppings. Use hashi to eat the onion and tofu and drink the soup directly from the bowl. I won’t tell though if you eat your soup with a spoon from a soup bowl!

onions and wakame

onions and wakame boiling in a pot

Working with Miso

Miso should be treated with care. This includes not being aggressive when you whisk or stir it into a portion of the soup.

According to Hitoshi’s mother, the flavor of miso is reduced if you continue to boil the soup once the miso is added.

Miso comes in two types of packaging. The easiest to work with is a tub. The other is a firm, plastic bag. The bag is often cheaper and tastes good but is an annoying dispenser. Hitoshi’s trick is to cut off a small corner of the bag and squeeze the miso out. You can control the flow but it is impossible to squeeze the miso at the mouth back into the package. We always waste some closing the bag. The remedy is to dump the miso into a glass container with a lid and store it in the fridge.

There are two types of miso in our local Asian stores: red and white. We prefer red. It has a stronger flavor.

miso soup in a pot

finished miso soup in the pot

Please tell us about your success or failure with this recipe and good luck!

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