Recipe: How to Make Miso Soup

Miso has long been a favourite and recently I found a sweet little Japanese bowl that just smiles sweetly and says “let’s make miso soup” to me every time I catch its eye on the kitchen bench.

At home it is very easy to make if you have miso paste. There are many different miso pastes, and it is great to try them all. Miso paste is available at health shops, Japanese and Asian groceries and some supermarkets.

Miso Soup with Bok Choy, Purslane and Black Moss

This soup is bursting with miso flavour.

Pick and choose additions from the huge list below.

Take a spoonful of the miso of your choice. Red, or Aka Miso is excellent. You might need a greater quantity if you are using a miso with a lighter flavour. You can also mix different miso types.

Add water just off the boil and stir as the miso melts to make a glorious stock. Taste, and add more miso if needed. Add more water to make a bowlful.

Add a dash of mirin.

Stir through some red or green chilli paste to taste, and some garlic-ginger paste. Finely chop some coriander, parsley or basil and add. Add fresh chilli if you wish. Crumble some wakame seaweed and add, or a small piece of kombu. Finally take 1 or 2 spring onions (the small thin ones, they may be called scallions or green onions where you live), chop and add. You can add finely sliced or chopped vegetables such as mushroom, carrot, daikon, red radish, jicama or tiny fronds of broccoli and cauliflower. Add Peas, Edamame, or Broad Beans.. Small cubes of tofu are also a very nice addition. Asian shops will stock small bows of bean curd skin – soak these and add. A few cooked, small lentils. Bean sprouts.

Other additions and alternatives are roasted garlic and coriander paste. Sesame oil. White pepper. Noodles. Tamari or light soy sauce. Kaffir Lime leaves (shredded).

You can add cubed, cooked potato (delicious!), shredded cucumber, reconstituted dried shiitake mushrooms, Japanese or Chinese seaweeds and fungus, any fresh mushrooms,  grilled mushrooms, sauteed or steamed eggplant, green beans, tofu, finely shredded cabbage, zucchini either shredded or cut into long thin strips, baby spinach leaves, shredded lettuce, dried beancurd, fried tofu, peas, corn, shredded young ginger, ginger shoots, and anything else that takes your imagination.

A few cooked lentils or beans can be added.

Every dish of miso can be different, and delightful.

Best sipped from a great bowl just big enough for one serving.

Stocks for Miso Soups

There is no need to make special stocks or broths for Miso Soup, as the ingredients provide ample flavour. But if you would like to use a base for the soup and pull back on some of the ingredients try these:

Remember if using stock as a base, hold back on adding the other flavouring ingredients such as pastes and sauces unless sure they will add to, not compete with, the flavour of the stock.

In addition, these also make awesome bases for Miso Soup

  • The cooking water from dried lentils or some dried beans such as dried fava (broad beans)
  • Left over Rasam or Sambar
  • Left over soup, pureed
  • The cooking water from vegetables, if not too salty
  • Pureed tomatoes, thinned, or juice some tomatoes and use the juice as the base for the soup

Miso Soup

On Miso

There are quite a variety of different misos. The four main ones are:

Shiromiso – White Miso – mainly white rice with soybeans
Akamiso – Red Miso -Soybeans
Genmai Miso – Brown Miso – Soybeans and brown rice
Awasemiso – Mixed or Blended Miso

There are a number of other varieties, all fermented with soybeans:

Hatcho Miso – Just soybeans
Mugi Miso – Barley and Soybeans
Tsubu Miso – Whole/Wheat Barley
Soba Miso – Buckwheat
Natto Miso – Ginger
Moromi Miso – Unblended
Nanban Miso – Mixed with chilli pepper
Taima – Hemp Seed
Hadakamugi – Rye
Nari – Cycad pulp [found in Buddhist temples]
Inika – White rice
Saikyo
Koji

… and many more….  They say that there are 1300 types! Each varies in colour, aroma, and flavour based on where the miso was made, the type of koji (mold used to ferment the miso) used, the proportion of soybeans to koji, and how long and under what conditions it ferments. If you are vegetarian it is worth knowing that some misos are mixed with dashi, a Japanese broth that is not vegetarian. You will see the word Dashi on the label – it is best to avoid those.

From a macrobiotic perspective, Hatcho, or soybean miso, is the most strengthening. Any of the barley misos have a more deeply nourishing and strengthening effect on health, though not quite as strong as Hatcho. They energise and encourage appetite. Genmai Miso (brown rice miso) is the most relaxing and soothing – Shiro Miso is as well. It depends on our health and desires to decide which miso is best for regular use. Simply speaking, Hatcho for strengthening, barley and soybean miso for strength, warmth and activity, and rice miso for relaxation and unwinding.

Common Types of Miso

Akamiso (Red Miso)

Akamiso is generally saltier than light yellow and white miso and has a more assertive, pungent flavour. You only need a little bit to add some serious umami to your dishes. It’s typically made with fermented soybeans and barley or another grain, and ranges from dark brown to red in colour.

It’s best suited for heartier dishes like rich soups, braises, and marinades or glazes It is terrific with eggplant. It can easily overwhelm milder ingredients, so use sparingly.

Genmai Miso (Brown Miso)

Genmai Miso is a mellow, sweet, golden miso paste of whole soybeans and brown rice which is traditionally aged in cedar kegs for up to 18 months. It is good for soups, sauces and slow cooked dishes, and is often referred to as Brown Miso.

Shiromiso (White Miso)

Shiromiso is made from soybeans that have been fermented with a large percentage of rice. It is fermented for a shorter time and lower in salt than darker varieties. It has a milder, more delicate flavour which is easily adaptable to various dishes. The colour of this miso can range from white to light beige, and the miso has a definite sweet taste. It’s mostly used in condiments like mayo or salad dressings, or in light sauces. It’s great in warm-weather soups and can be used in place of dairy in some recipes (think miso mashed potatoes). It can be blended with other miso types for a stronger flavoured soup, or a white miso broth can be boosted with additions such as garlic, chilli, onion, tamari, umaboshi, and/or sesame oil.

Mugi Miso (Barley Miso)

Made from barley and soybeans, mugi miso usually has a longer fermentation process than most white miso. It has a strong barley aroma, but is still milder and slightly sweet in flavour. Barley miso has become the most widely accepted by Westerners and is also very popular in Japan. Its not-too-sweet, funky and medium-strength flavour makes it appropriate for both summer and winter use. It is an ideal base for soups, sauces, and spreads. In Japan, mugi miso is considered a country-style food. It is available in smooth and chunky textures. It is great in stews and has a particular affinity for mushrooms.

Hatcho Miso (Soybean Miso)

Hatcho miso literally translates to 8th Street Miso because the original two companies that made Hatcho Miso have been on that street in Okazaki in Japan for hundreds of years. It is the darkest, firmest, most intensely flavoured of misos, with good umami, and it resembles a thick chocolate fudge. Its fermentation process is a long one, optimally between 2 and 3 years. Because its flavour is strong, hatcho miso is often mixed with other misos.u

The robust flavour of hatcho makes it a favourite winter miso, perfect for use with root vegetables and in hearty dishes such as soups and stews.

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