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What Is Miso Soup?
Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup that is made from a simple combination of dashi stock mixed with miso paste. Different ingredients can be added such as tofu, scallions, and vegetables. Miso soup is considered a staple in Japanese cuisine, and often served with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
What Ingredients Make Up Miso Soup?
The combination of ingredients in miso soup give the soup an earthy, savory flavor with complimentary textures.
- Stock. The base of miso soup is dashi stock, made with kombu and bonito flakes.
- Miso paste. Miso, a fermented paste made from a combination of soybeans, sea salt, and rice koji, is added to the dashi to make miso soup. The paste gives the soup a flavor known as umami—savory, with toasty, funky salty-sweet richness.
- Toppings. Once you have a basic miso soup, you can add various toppings: tofu, scallions, seaweed, shiitake mushrooms, leeks, clams, noodles, and green veggies all work well.
How to Choose the Right Miso Paste: Difference Between White, Yellow, and Red Miso
You can use any type of miso paste for miso soup. They are fermented for different amounts of time, resulting in different flavors. Here are three common types of miso paste:
- White miso paste (shiro miso): A light yellow miso, this is the mildest type of miso. It is fermented for a shorter period of time and less salty than other varieties. White miso has a delicate flavor and is the sweetest of all the miso pastes.
- Yellow miso paste (shinshu miso): Golden yellow in color, this is another mild miso that is fermented slightly longer than white miso. The longer fermentation time results in an earthier but more acidic flavor when compared to the other misos.
- Red miso paste (aka miso): This deep red miso is fermented for the longest amount of time and has the highest percentage of soybeans. Red miso is the most pungent miso with a salty and slightly bitter flavor. It should be used sparingly to avoid overwhelming the other flavors in a dish.
How Is Miso Soup Traditionally Served?
In Japan, miso soup is traditionally served by placing it in a small bowl and sipped without a spoon. To eat the solid ingredients in miso soup, the bowl is cradled in one hand, while chopsticks are used to pick up pieces of food like tofu and scallions.
When served at breakfast, the soup is usually served alongside rice, eggs, fish, and pickles. At lunch or dinner, miso soup is served along with the main course or enjoyed at the very end of a meal, as a way to help settle the food.
What Is a Dashi Broth?
Dashi is a simple stock made of kombu (dried seaweed) and bonito (dried fish flakes). The kombu is cut into sheets and simmered in water, then steeped with bonito flakes, which are discarded before using. Dashi stock is then combined with miso paste to give miso soup deep umami flavors. For a shortcut version, instant dashi powder can be purchased from Asian markets.
Authentic Japanese Miso Soup Recipe
Prep Time24 min
Total Time34 min
Cook Time10 min
If you love miso soup, try making your own delicious miso soup at home with tasty cubes of tofu and seaweed. This simple recipe is an authentic version of the classic miso soup you'll find served in Japanese restaurants. The ingredients can be found in your local asian grocery store.
- 1 ounce kombu (dried kelp), about 18 square inches
- 1 cup dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
- ½ cup dried wakame seaweed
- ¼ cup shiro miso (white miso paste)
- ½ pound soft silken tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ¼ cup thinly sliced scallion
- To make dashi soup stock, bring six cups water and kombu to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Remove pan from heat and sprinkle bonito flakes over the liquid; let stand 4 minutes. Pour through a strainer or cheesecloth into a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, cover wakame with hot water and let stand for 15 minutes, until reconstituted. Drain and set aside.
- In another bowl, add miso paste and stir with ½ cup dashi until smooth. Heat the remaining dashi in a saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming hot, then add tofu and wakame. Simmer to combine for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in miso mixture and top with scallions. Ladle into soup bowls and serve warm.
Cook’s notes: To make a vegan version of miso soup, skip the bonito flakes when making dashi stock. If you’re making a gluten free version look for miso paste made with rice or buckwheat.
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