Miso confused
September 5, 2005 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Recipe for miso soup wanted! Must be tried and true and fixable with ingredients available in the U.S. (or on the 'Net.) It's not as easy as it seems, evidently... (T'anks!)
posted by Shane to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
One obvious source...
posted by bingo at 2:07 PM on September 5, 2005

This is adapted from the First Book of Japanese Cooking. I have used this recipe many, many times and it is the closest I've found to the type my host mom made in Nagoya. All of these ingredients can be found in any Asian food store.

A few strips of dried wakame seaweed
1 cake tofu
3 1/2 cups secondary bonito stock*
4 tbsp medium salt miso**
~1 Tbsp chopped green onions
(optional) I like adding potatoes and carrots for a stew in winter

1. soak and cut up wakame
2. cut tofu into cubes
3. Heat the bonito stock until just before boiling, when it is near boiling take out a cup and blend it with the miso and blend your bonito/miso mixture back into the pot. This keeps the miso from clumping. Do not boil. This will kill the taste.
4. Add your tofu, wakame and other extras if needed cook for another 5 minutes or so without boiling.
5. Serve topped with green onions

*can be made from grinding up your own bonito fish or from a prepared powder or liquid. I like the liquid just fine

**comes in red or white. People in Nagoya mix them, but I like white miso better (less salty)
posted by Alison at 3:51 PM on September 5, 2005 [2 favorites]

Also, miso paste and bonito stock.
posted by Alison at 3:59 PM on September 5, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, folks. "I have used this recipe many, many times..." is what I'm looking or. It seems many of my friends have tried a number of recipes with no success.

How is it w/o the bonito, Allison? I'm pretty much vegan...
posted by Shane at 4:04 PM on September 5, 2005

I have used pretty much exactly Alison's recipe many, many times. It's good. It works. I don't use exact measurements anymore since I know by feel how much to use for a single serving, which is usually the amount I'm making, and I often add some appropriate veggies—bok choy is particularly good. Since you're a vegan, you could substitute vegetable stock for the bonito. It won't be the same, but it will still be good.
posted by Acetylene at 4:12 PM on September 5, 2005

The instant stuff is pretty good, and can be prepared in seconds if you have boiling water on hand. I especailly like Kikkoman's "Shiro Miso" and "Tofu Miso".
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:13 PM on September 5, 2005

Not really sure what you mean by "no success." Miso soup recipes are fairly simple and I don't know that I've ever made some that was flat-out bad.

I have found that I've liked it better depending on the type of miso and tofu I've used. My former roommate lived in Japan for awhile and the soup always tasted better when I used miso paste she bought at the Asian market as opposed to the stuff I'd get from Whole Foods. Also, a number of recipes I've seen recommend "firm" tofu, but I prefer the texture of "soft" tofu -- that might just be my weird personal preference though.
posted by awegz at 4:19 PM on September 5, 2005

Edwards and Sons is the best instant miso soup I have found...In my opinion to make miso soup taste like what you get at a sushi place you have to make it with a stock from bonito and/or wakame. Don't forget there are a multitude of misos, you can blend different brands and types together to get the flavor you like.
posted by flummox at 4:21 PM on September 5, 2005

I once had a vegan roommate and we used vegetable stock, as Acetylene said. Wakame stock works fine as well, but both don't quite taste like regular miso soup.
posted by Alison at 4:33 PM on September 5, 2005

Awegs has a good point—I always buy my miso at an Asian market, and if I recall correctly (I'm not at home right now) the only English on the label is a federal nutrition information label pasted on the back. I've never tried it with a grocery store miso paste.
posted by Acetylene at 5:02 PM on September 5, 2005

awegz, at least what I've experienced in the difficulties of miso soup are proportions and the different kinds of miso. The first time I tried to make it was before US markets had any idea what it was, so I did buy my miso at an asian market. I tried so many different kinds of miso and didn't have any success that I ended up opting for instant. Thanks to this thread, I may give it another go with Alison's recipe.
posted by scazza at 5:13 PM on September 5, 2005

Response by poster: Arigato!
posted by Shane at 5:44 PM on September 5, 2005

I have made this "recipe" many many times and love it. I think my first attempts with miso soup were with the recipe given at i was just really very hungry. It turned out really well, but after reading several other recipes, I eventually started making it in the manner below. I'm able to get all the ingredients at a local asian/world grocery, but I'll provide amazon.com links to show the brand, or what it looks like (since the pkgs. sometimes have no english on them).

My recipe:
1 sheet konbu
1 pkg. bonito flakes
3 or 4 tablespoons yellow miso paste
4 cups water

Wipe Kombu with a wet paper towel. Place in pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and simmer the kombu about 15 minutes. Remove and discard the kombu. Throw in bonito flakes, and let them just sink to the bottom. Remove the pan, and pour the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer to strain out the bonito. I press the bonito against the strainer with a fork to get all the juices out. This broth is called Dashi, and it's the base for lots of japanese soups.

Heat the dashi back up until it's *not quite boiling*. I go for steam but no bubbles. The easiest way I've found to add the miso is to take a tiny fine-mesh strainer, and put the miso in it. Dip the strainer down into the dashi so that the miso is covered, but the top of the strainer is above the broth, and use a chopstick (or a spoon would work) to sort of whisk the miso against the strainer. It'll make the miso break up really easily and allow it to fall into the broth.

I've read a couple of places that the only real way involves taking the miso into a ladle and covering it in dashi and whisking it around with the chopstick until it dissolves, but I find it takes far more effort than the fine mesh strainer deal, and the results aren't significantly different (to me). Also, I learned the strainer technique from watching Iron Chef. hee!

Don't let the miso boil.

As for vegetables, I like shallots and green onions, I sometimes put in silken tofu. You really have endless options. Just boil anything that needs boiling in the dashi and reduce the heat before adding the miso.

You can vary it however you like, we like lots of miso, you may like less. It's incredibly easy. Unfortunately, Dashi's definitely not vegan, it's basically a fish broth. I'm not sure about the instant flakes though.
posted by FortyT-wo at 6:40 PM on September 5, 2005

I can't stand fish flakes, so I don't make a traditional recipe, but my husband still considers it Miso soup (Think about how many variations there are of Mashed Potatoes). If I do use a soup base (dashi), I use one made from shitake mushrooms or seaweed. (I suppose it could still be fishy, but usually react quite negatively to fishy bases, and these I like.) I have also had vegetarian Miso soup here, though I didn't ask them the specifics of how they made it.

Often I just heat some water with some bits of potato and maybe a little carrot. Then add tofu and miso paste to taste at the end. Serve with chopped green onion on top.

Probably the most difficult part in the States is finding a good Miso paste. I had not had a good impression of miso (from health food store canned soups, etc), but when cooking with it myself have been quite happy (except once when I got carried away adding miso). People have different tastes/preferences, as well, so you could try different kinds of Miso. Here there is quite a range of colors and shades, strengths and prices, as well as some specialties.

Just think of it like mashed potatoes and find your preferred variation (chicken broth, milk, butter, cheese, garlic, pepper, etc. in the case of potatoes). The basic recipe is the same (water, dashi, veggies/tofu, miso), but there are lots of standard variations (tofu types, clams, mushrooms, potato & carrot, etc.) and room for personal experimentation...

Good luck.

[instant flakes are totally fish, too...except, (I'm hoping) less common types, like the kombu and shitake dashi I often use]
posted by MightyNez at 3:16 AM on September 6, 2005

Response by poster: Wow! Domo arigato gozaimasita.
posted by Shane at 4:44 AM on September 6, 2005

posted by Alison at 1:50 PM on September 6, 2005

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