miso soup

I warn you right off the bat: this post does not contain a recipe for miso soup. Because….you don’t need one! I also warn you that I’ll be using other people’s photos because I’m on the road this week, and can’t snap all sorts of gorgeous pix of my own miso soup. So I shall steal gorgeous pix of other people’s miso soups, providing full credit, natch. Let’s start with this one from Great Eastern Sun, an excellent purveyor of miso and other Asian ingredients. And check out that styling!

miso soup
Photo from Great Eastern Sun

Final warning: I’ve set myself a challenge, and am broadcasting it here for accountability purposes. I’m going to tackle a post a day.  Whether this means 5 or 7 posts a week, I don’t quite know yet, because sometimes a woman needs a weekend. But I’m weary of being flummoxed by the massive amount of work that goes into a recipe post to the point that it’s obviously stifled me (since I haven’t posted in close to a month). Frankly, I’ve not been able to lift a finger in the kitchen other than to reheat leftovers since Thanksgiving, so extensive were the preparations. I mean, I love to cook, and I just have been done.

So anyway…..miso soup. Stop 1 on the current journey has been a day to hang out with the kid in Ann Arbor (Steve is away). He and I grab take-away from the little sushi place near us on occasion, last night to accompany our viewing of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which is brilliant, by the way. And the kid loves his miso soup. It’s cold here in Michigan. He slurped a spoonful and said, “Is there anything more comfy than miso soup on a cold day?”

And….well, it’s not like I jumped in to contradict him.

Miso Soup: The Method

Miso soup was one of the first things I learned to cook. When my first husband was diagnosed with AIDS, we decided to go macrobiotic. I’m just gonna link you to find out about macrobiotic because this post is already pretty long. Anyway, next to all the not so delicious things I subjected him to, miso soup was a downright gourmet treat.

You start it like you do all soups: Sauté savory vegetables in oil. Onions are the go-to, but you could also use leeks, and you could add celery if you want. Classic miso soup would NOT use olive oil; the flavors don’t work. If toasted sesame oil isn’t too strong for you in a big dose, you could use that, or use mostly a taste-free oil like grapeseed or avocado with about a teaspoon of sesame oil for flavor.

The cook who taught me simmered some wakame (that’s seaweed) in some water. She then poured the flavored water in on top of the sauteed onions. (Macrobiotic cooks keep it minimal in the extreme.) A good vegetable stock can also work, and if you want to do a hot sour variation, go for chicken broth.  Below, one way to buy wakame.

miso soup ingredient

Let the soup simmer with the onions for about 10 minutes. Then remove a cup of the broth from the pan and stir in a tablespoon of miso. Boiling will kill all those lovely probiotic properties that you’re after, so don’t just dump the miso into a boiling pot, and don’t boil your soup once the miso’s added.

Miso Soup: Finishing

The classic miso soup garnish is cubed tofu and chopped scallion greens, with a few shreds of wakame—familiar to anyone who eats miso soup at a sushi place. But you can get very creative. Shredded vegetables of all kinds can make your miso soup a very happy bowl indeed. Particularly favorites are radishes, carrots, and baby bok choy. The photo below is one I took for a stir-fry recipe, but I’d pretty happily add anything on the board to a bowl of miso, just letting it simmer long enough so that the veggies kept their texture but were no longer raw. Under the photo, and for those who prefer to be told exactly what to throw in the pot, are links to a few favorite riffs.

miso soup

Miso Soup: Other People’s Recipes

Here’s a thorough and precise miso soup primer from the Chopstick Chronicles blog. Jump straight to the recipes for exact proportions, but the pictures leading up to it provide some interesting visual info about possible add-ins like mushrooms and—great idea—shiso leaves, if you can get them. You will have the rather bizarre experience of seeing a pop-up ad for Reese’s Pieces float up under the tofu picture—but only if you’re a lucky duck like me. I don’t have enough subscribers for pop-ups to be an option. You’re welcome!

miso soup ingredients
photo by Chopstick Chronicles

I love The First Mess blog; it’s an extravaganza for the eye, and Laura’s writing and recipes are reliably wonderful and don’t devolve into that “Oh. My. God. You. HAVE. TO. EAT. THIS!!!!!” blog speak that makes me want to curl into a fetal position and hit my head against a chalkboard—oddly, at the same time. This miso soup recipe accomplishes the seemingly impossible: insanely good for you with absolutely decadent amounts of flavor. And go buy Laura’s cookbook, because she is one of the best vegan chefs out there.

miso soup
Photo by Laura Wright, The First Mess

While this Egg Drop Soup with Shiitakes and Mushrooms recipe from Clean Eating isn’t strictly a miso soup, there’s no reason you couldn’t stir a tablespoon in, cutting back on the soy sauce. It delivers the same miso-esque goodness and comfort with hot and sour accents, and I do love me a great pork-free hot and sour soup.

miso soup
Photo by Ronald Tsang for Clean Eating

Finally, if you’re wondering what else that container of miso is good for, I recommend you visit this round-up from Cookie and Kate for vegan ideas, and this more omniverous (but still veggie-centric) list from Bon Appetit. Enjoy.

Cold Miso Sesame Noodles from Bon Appetit, photo by Heidi’s Bridge

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