Soup Part One: Miso

Tuesday, 12 January 2010 at the Macrobiotic Cooking Club

There are certainly more solid parts per million in my breakfast French press than in a bowl of miso broth. But, coffee isn’t broth, no matter how thick, and so miso remains the simplest, most energizing soup I know.

The traditional base for miso soup is dashi, which is made from bonito (flaked dried fish) and seaweed. Its flavor is delicate and delicious. Aveline Kushi writes that, ideally, soup does contain both sea vegetables and either miso or tamari, “which simulate the salty composition of the ocean from which primitive life evolved.” (Aveline Kushi’s Complete Guide to Macrobiotic Cooking for Health, Harmony, and Peace).

Don’t let dashi-making deter you, though. Use good unpasteurized miso (typically sold in 4- to 16 oz. tubs or jars from refrigerated cases in health food stores) to turn even plain water into a satisfying soup.

Ryan taught me the best way. My cookbooks have recipes for batches of four or more helpings, but if you’re cooking for one or two it’s better to soup miso by the bowl. Made with rough and aged South River miso, this broth is the most satisfying light meal there is. Serve it with thick bread or brown rice.

Simplest Miso Broth
per bowl

1-3 teaspoons miso
boiling water, left to cool for a few moments
scallions, rinsed and sliced thin (green and white parts)

1. Put the miso in your soup bowl and mix in a little warm water to soften it. Gradually add more water until the miso is the texture of mustard. (This should take less than 1/4 cup water).
2. Add hot water, a few moments off the boil; use as much water as you want soup. Stir the diluted miso and the water together and top with sliced scallions.
Note: The amount of miso depends on your taste, the type of miso you are using, and the amount of water. Only experimentation will determine the amount you’ll like best.

Seasoning With Miso

Besides making a meal on its own, miso is good for seasoning any soupy dish or broth you have. We mixed miso into the seitan cooking water last week at cooking club. The seitan was cooked in broth seasoned with tamari and dulse, tasting like the sea, and just a couple of teaspoons of chickpea miso made it into soup.

Soften miso as for soup, and add it to cooked beans for a savory treat. Miso may also be diluted and poured over greens or other vegetables as they cook, although it is best not to boil miso if you can help it. When miso boils, the flavor doesn’t change but the living ferment is destroyed.

Consider the saltiness of miso when seasoning with it. Some dishes may require both sea salt and miso for the proper flavor, while others will taste just right with only miso. Try some of your miso plain or on a slice of toast to find out just how salty it is.

The reason for diluting miso with a little of the water before adding it to soupy dishes is, if you do not dilute the miso it stays lumpy. The Sous Chef at Pure Food & Wine used to add wads of hatcho (soybean) miso to family meal soups, for heartiness. He did not temper the miso, though, so the soup was mostly bland but with biggish lumps of concentrated salty flavor in a few of our bowls.

Besides Chickpea Miso in Seitan Broth, at the Twelfth Meeting of The Macrobiotic Cooking Club, we had:

Carrots Baked Fish Style
Rolled Sushi with Seitan, Cucumber and Sprouts
(Green Tea)

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