How do I up my (very novice) miso soup game?
November 28, 2018 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I've made a few pots of, to me anyway, passable miso soup using some basic, I think, ingredients. Can you provide tips/tricks/ideas/mistakes to avoid that will make good into great with minimal addition of marginal effort? I'm fine with things that defy traditional.

I'll just describe what I'm doing currently and let you all do the rest. No dietary restrictions though I am currently following a pretty strict keto restriction on carbs. Oily foods, moreso than normal, are fine in that regard.

1) Cook/panfry some sort of meat/protein in enameled saucepot. I've had good luck with beef steak cubes and, because why not, small bits of cut up bacon that's nice and thick.
2) When the meat (I suppose tofu + oil of some sort would be the same idea) is cooked I add in water and the following two items: Hondashi and Red Miso Paste. No, I don't drain, I just use the water to deglaze the pan, blame laziness and keto mentality for this I suppose.
3) Stir til warm/hot/dissolved.
4) Consume with hot sauce to taste.
5) Wash one pot, one bowl, one utensil.
6) Fin.
posted by RolandOfEld to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I've always used Kenji's recipe from Serious Eats. To modify your own process, I would add some seaweed (kombu for sure, maybe the wakame), and mushrooms. Pushing the miso through a strainer makes for an extra dish, but depending on your miso could make a difference.
posted by papayaninja at 11:40 AM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Perfectly helpful, I generally love seaweed and generally dislike mushrooms so that's low hanging fruit on the former. Thanks for that.

I'm not sure what the strainer adds to the process besides an extra step and another dish to clean, as you say, but perhaps I just lack the refinement/palate/awareness to understand why that's useful.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:44 AM on November 28, 2018

I have a different method. I cook onions, garlic, ginger, and red pepper thoroughly in oil. Once they're cooked, I add hot water. I get this broth going for a while, sometimes with soy sauce. You could try cooking your meat (with bones?) in this broth (which would take longer, probably, but retain a lot of juicy deliciousness).

If I'm adding veggies, mushrooms, or noodles, I'll cook them in the broth, and then add miso at the end.

At the end, I really enjoy adding any of a number of toppings or other ingredients like: fried tofu, a soft-boiled egg, chopped chives or green onions, toasted sesame seeds, a dollop of sesame oil, bonito flakes, seaweed. Not all of them - that would be a bit much - but those are some ideas that might work for you.
posted by entropone at 11:51 AM on November 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

Shifting the order is certainly something I'm open to if it keeps dishes from getting unwieldy as I really like the order of operations that means less dirty stuff. What veggies do you like? I know most anything would work but get specific if you want.

Sesame Oil! That sounds good, I think I have some even. The egg, man, I like cracking an egg into ramen as it cookes and stirring like hell but I've never been a huge fan on softboiled ones in soups... I may still try it though.

I'm for sure going to start doing tofu, raw or fried up, somehow. I enjoy tofu very much as a protein.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:56 AM on November 28, 2018

I've never heard of straining miso soup (I make it for dinner pretty regularly if my wife lets me). We use hondashi and genmai miso, usually served with soft tofu cubes, wakame and a bit of sliced green onion. We would never add hot sauce because the dashi and miso is what one is supposed to taste. We'll sometimes add a bit of diced, cooked potato.

I have been trained by my wife as well to never allow the miso soup to boil. This ruins its flavour.

Although there are variations, miso soup is intended to be a side dish anyway, so unless you explore the variations (tonjiru with sliced pork, a dashi-based clear soup with daikon strands, wakame and small fish balls), it's always better to think about what you're eating miso soup with. Miso is very very salty (so much so that because of my HBP I can only rarely have miso soup these days).

When we make hot pot (konbu stock, daikon, carrots, chicken, pork strips, noodles, hakusai, green onions) we'll sometimes create a soup out of the leftover hotpot the next day by putting in some miso paste.
posted by JamesBay at 11:57 AM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Start making your own dashi with kombu and katsuo-bushi instead of using the instant powder. It's relatively easy and you can freeze off portions for longer-term storage.
posted by gnutron at 12:08 PM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sounds like maybe you are yearning for more of a miso-based ramen than a "classic" (in Western minds, anyway) miso? I'd look in that direction.
posted by praemunire at 12:10 PM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

My partner is Japanese-American (and does most of the cooking); here's how he makes miso:

Boil a pot of water and add a packet of hondashi once it's hot, or really whenever is fine.

Put some dried wakame in a dish of cold water for it to rehydrate.

Cut up daikon and carrots into quarter-inch cubes. Add soft tofu and enoki mushrooms if they're around. (Save the shiitakes for something that will better utilize their flavor.) About a minute before you think the carrot et al will be done cooking, add the wakame.

Turn off the heat when the carrot's done, then add a big spoonful of miso (red if for dinner, white if you're making breakfast miso). If you need more salt, add more miso (not soy sauce or anything like that). Don't get the shitty miso for white people; it doesn't taste like anything. Don't get miso with dashi added into it, since it also usually comes with MSG and other flavoring agents that can taste a bit off. It can be handy to put the miso into a strainer, then sort of mash it up in the soup broth to help it dissolve, so you don't end up with a giant submerged glob. "Rinse" the strainer in the soup itself so nothing goes to waste; you're not actually straining anything out here.

Serve with green onions on top. The end.

I'll note that miso is probably not actually especially keto-friendly, especially if you're letting carbs into your diet anywhere else.
posted by tapir-whorf at 12:14 PM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh -- so the reason Kenji Alt-Lopez suggests using a strainer is because the bonito and kombu aren't meant to be eaten -- just like the onion and carrot peelings and chicken skin used in lots of western-style soup stocks aren't -- they're just flavoring, and the kombu is probably fairly tough and in big pieces, anyway. You make that first (or, if you're a slacker you just buy dashi in a packet like tons of Japanese people do), and if you're using a big wire mesh strainer with hooks on the end to secure it to the edge of the pot, you can even boil the kombu and bonito flakes in the strainer, then just lift it all out and have your strained dashi ready to go. For a halfway shortcut, buy bonito in big "teabags" so you don't have to strain anything so much as just pick a teabag and a few pieces of kombu out.

If you're using more delicate ingredients (cockles, wakame) like KA-L suggests, then you lower the heat per his instructions. If you're using carrots and daikon, those need to be boiled a little bit, and you want to do that before adding the miso, otherwise you kill the good bacteria in it.

Once you're ready to lower the heat and add the miso, he (and my sweetheart) suggests using the strainer to break up the miso. You're not actually getting rid of anything--just using it like a gold panner would to sift out silt into the river, only your river is the pot of soup and your silt is the most delicious part and there's no gold. This was an imperfect metaphor.
posted by tapir-whorf at 12:24 PM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'll note that miso is probably not actually especially keto-friendly, especially if you're letting carbs into your diet anywhere else.

Can you elaborate because, while I admit my ignorance, I can read labels and my recipe (water, meat protein, hondashi, red miso paste) seems to be really low on carbs. Maybe not as low as straight broth + meat but still, pretty damn low. Adding tofu adds a bit. Adding seaweed seems to be damn near no impact. Veggies would of course add some carbs on their own basis and I get that....

But, what am I missing on the non-keto front?

On Preview:

Metafilter: This was an imperfect metaphor.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:27 PM on November 28, 2018

I think I decided miso wasn't keto enough for me, at least -- but I sucked at being keto (and it didn't last long) and two cups of miso soup is ~10+ grams of carbohydrates, which is half your daily allowance when you're starting out. (Though if you're able to fit 40-50 carbs in without throwing things off kilter, I will shut up and admire your keto success!)
posted by tapir-whorf at 12:36 PM on November 28, 2018

Save the leaves from a bunch of celery. Put them in the soup just as you're done cooking it.
posted by amtho at 2:06 PM on November 28, 2018

Clams are good in miso soup and definitely won't add any carbs. Apparently there's a (realer) version that uses clams instead of the bonito component, but I just put them in regular dashi until they open.
posted by ftm at 3:15 PM on November 28, 2018

I don’t care if it’s anathema or gaijin nonsense: I love to eat thinly sliced (and tender) kombu in my soups. It has lots of micronutrients that are hard to find elsewhere, some fiber and macronutrients, as well as adding a little non-animal bulk and overall satiety to the soup.

I strongly suspect that the greater historical usage is eating of the seaweed. Throwing out food is generally a modern artifice, in my experience, YMMV.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:53 PM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have this down to a science for taste, balanced meal, and minimal dishes/clean-up.

Boil water...
Add prepared daikon
Add dried shiitake mushrooms
Add pinch of bonito flakes (opt.)

While the above is cooking...
Put canned salmon or tuna in serving bowls
Drizzle 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil in each bowl
Add sliced green onion to each bowl

Back to the cooking veg...
Add roughly chopped bok choy or spinach and/or rehydrated and drained wakame seaweed. Stir and turn off heat.
Put 1 tbsp of miso (red, white, or mixture) per bowl (plus a little more into a deep ladle. Dip in kettle to add some hot water. Use a spoon to stir miso so it dissolves in water. Tilt to let liquid into kettle and add more hot water until all miso is dissolved. Dish into bowls.

Top with furikake, and/or maybe some chopped kim chi

Enjoy a bowl of excellent deliciousness!
posted by dancing leaves at 7:20 PM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

You may want to check the ramen subreddit (r/ramen). On the sidebar are a few ramen broth recipes that might at least give you some ideas or variations.
posted by kuanes at 4:11 AM on November 29, 2018

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