Miso soup is one of those soups that is perfect for almost any day. It takes less than 10 minutes to make, and ranks up there as near ideal comfort food. I enjoy it either as a starter to a Japanese meal, when I’m feeling down with a cold or flu, or even just because. It can be simple or as complex as you want. You can add scallions, tofu, shiitake or enoki mushrooms, soba or udon noodles, a soft boiled egg, or even shrimp, and you can spice it up with crushed red pepper flakes or better yet, shichimi togarashi (seven-flavor chili pepper).
A basic miso soup is really just four simple ingredients: dashi, miso, tofu and wakame (seaweed). Dashi, which literally means “stock”, is a broth made from kombu (dried black kelp) and bonito fish flakes. It’s what gives the soup such a savory umami flavor. Most of the ingredients can be found in any Asian grocery store or easily ordered online.
If you’re not planning on making this or other Japanese dishes often, I would suggest don’t buy the kombu and bonito fish flakes, but instead opt for powdered dashi, it is readily available and eliminates one of the steps. However, if you would like to make it from scratch, I should mention that dashi can be kept in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for a month, so making extra is worthwhile. Much like chicken or beef stock here in the U.S., dashi forms the base for many Japanese dishes.
If you are interested in cooking Japanese cuisine, I would recommend one of my favorite Japanese food blogs, JustOneCookbook, which has lots of great great recipes. Also, a great cookbook that has been so much fun to work through is Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu.
Makes 2 cups
- 2 cups water
- 2 x 4 inch piece of kombu, with slits
- 1/2 cup loosely packed bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
- 2 Tbsp. white or red miso paste
- 4 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tsp. dried wakame (seaweed)
- 1 green onion, finely chopped
- To make the dashi, add 2 cups of water and a 2″ x 4″ piece of kombu to a medium saucepan. Let sit for 15 minutes before turning stove on and bringing to a low simmer. Just before boiling, remove the kombu. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes, uncovered.
- Add the bonito flakes and bring again to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 30 seconds. Turn off heat and let the dashi sit for about 10 minutes or until the fish flakes sink to the bottom of the saucepan. Meanwhile, soak the dried wakame for 10 minutes in water to rehydrate, then drain well.
- Strain the dashi into a bowl with a cheesecloth or paper towel. Return the dashi to the stove and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Using a ladle, put 1 tablespoon of miso into the ladle and add some hot dashi. Stir until the miso forms a slurry with no lumps, repeat with the other tablespoon of miso. Pour into the dashi and turn heat to low, add the cubed tofu and let simmer for 1-2 minutes.
- In each soup bowl, put half the wakame and half the finely chopped green onions. Pour the miso soup into the bowls and enjoy!