They say that true love is hard to find. But when it comes to food, it isn't really so hard, is it? Take, for example, the time when you taste your first mouthful of "real" miso soup - that time when the soup hits your taste buds and you start thinking, "how can a soup taste this good?" (That's probably the mysterious "fifth taste", AKA umami.)
When I say "real" miso soup, I don't mean the lame excuse for this wonderful dish that you find in a lot of low and middle end Japanese restaurants (read miso paste and water) or some of the truly awful preparations you find on supermarket shelves (which shouldn't be labelled as miso soup at all) No, I mean miso soup that has been prepared with some good quality dashi stock, a couple or three fresh vegetables in small amounts and some good quality miso.
If you ever read my restaurant reviews, you'll know that one of my acid tests for a good Japanese eatery is the quality of the miso soup. But it isn't really a dark art to get miso soup right - just good ingredients, a little time and a little focus, that's about all. The quality of the dashi and the miso are key - those ingredients will make your life easy and do the flavour creating work for you with minimum fuss. There are a number of ways to get a good dashi stock - first, you can make your own. I have a recipe on the site that you can use to do this - just click on Premium Dashi Stock to find it. But if you don't have the time to make it yourself, you can find some very good instant stock granules and dashi stock bags available online. For this recipe, I used Kayanoya brand dashi stock bags. You can find these on Amazon in the US or, if you ever find yourself in Tokyo (lucky you), you could visit Kayanoya's wonderful store and buy some there - they would make a wonderful present for the miso soup lover in your life! If you can't find stock bags, then buy yourself a bag of dashi stock granules. IMO, these won't taste quite as good as stock made from a dashi stock bag but they will certainly produce a well flavored soup.
Of course, we mustn't forget the miso. I used a Hanamaruki brand white miso but any "Made in Japan" miso should work well. If you are wondering, you can also use a darker, "red" miso for this recipe - it will just taste a little saltier, so you might wish to use a little less depending on your taste.
Last but not least, the veggies. I used some sugar snaps for their slightly sweet flavour and the crunchy texture. I also used some mushrooms to enrich the flavour of the soup a little and for their lovely, soft, silky texture on the tongue. Obviously, you can use other vegetables as the mood takes you.
So, have I got you drooling for your own bowl of umami rich miso soup? If I have, you can find the Youtube tutorial by clicking Miso Soup or by scrolling to the bottom of the page. The written recipe is just below.
Happy cooking! Kurumi XXXX.
(makes 2 servings)
60g / 2oz oyster mushrooms, rinsed
12 - 14 sugar snaps, rinsed
500ml /17fl oz water
1 Kayanoya dashi stock bag*
2 tbsp of miso
*(if you are using dashi stock granules instead, 1 heaped teaspoon will be adequate as a substitute. if you have decided to be extra virtuous and make your own dashi stock, simply use 500ml of that instead of water.)
slice the oyster mushrooms lengthways and cut into large bite size pieces
prepare the sugarsnaps by removing the stems and strings
pour the water into a saucepan. add the dashi bag and bring to the boil. simmer for 2 - 3 minutes, before removing the dashi bag
add the mushrooms and sugarsnaps and simmer for 2 - 3 minutes
last, add the miso to the saucepan. stir until the miso is dissolved. bring back to the boil, then turn off the heat off immediately