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How difficult is it to make good home-made miso soup?

David Kahn Feb 2, 2010 12:03 PM

Can anyone point me to a good recipe? My current approach -- taking a thermos to my local sushi restaurant and begging -- is getting old. Or is this something that shouldn't be approached by a home cook? Fwiw, I'm a reasonably competent cook, but have no experience whatsoever with Asian ingredients or cooking methods.

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  1. jen kalb RE: David Kahn Feb 2, 2010 12:35 PM

    Where angels fear to tread....Its really quite easy if you buy a few ingredients -

    first some good
    dashino-moto (basically instant dashi/stock granules made from bonito flakes and kombu (kelp), the main ingredients for the broth). Dissolve a small amount of these in hot (near boiling) water. My current product (see below) calls for 1 tsp granules for 4 servings (say 3-4 C water) If your stock doesnt have kombu in it, you can put a few leaves of dried kombu seaweed in the hot stock for a few minutes until softened and it gives up its flavor (eat it or pull it out your pick) most recently I have just used the hon dashi with kombu extract in it. the brand I have now is Shimaya Bonito Flavored Seasoning (note its number one ingredient is MSG) but there are many, I think Hon Dashi is another.
    After your broth is simmering and ready - NOT boiling - , spoon about 1 tbsp per serving of miso paste, your preference red, white or whatever, into a cup or small bowl and whisk or blend it with several spoonfulls of the stock until it is smooth and loosened. this step is necessary, dont skip. Then spoon this into the simmering broth.

    When the miso is dissolved (it looks really interesting as this is happening)
    add your solid ingredients, say small cubes of bean curd, a few slices of scallion, etc. Simmer till well warmed - do not boil, then you can serve or package into your thermos.

    So you basically have 3-4 ingredients inexpensive ingredients and a simple process that will only take a few minutes.

    Good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: jen kalb
      w
      writergeek313 RE: jen kalb Feb 2, 2010 12:54 PM

      I bought the ingredients to make miso at home last week. The dashi stock granules were $3, a huge bag of white miso paste was less than $4, and a pack of dried seaweed was around $3. I was a little intimidated cooking with new ingredients, but I was shocked by how simple and quick the soup was. Start to finish I think it was about 20 minutes, and it was excellent! Now that I've got the basics in the house, I'm looking forward to trying some variations.

    2. a
      armagnac RE: David Kahn Feb 2, 2010 12:38 PM

      Here are two easy ways. How easy? Just add hot water.

      In any food store that carries some oriental products, look in the chill chest or possibly on the shelves for a small tub labeled Dashi Miso. One tablespoon of the paste dissolved in one cup of hot water, and presto! Miso soup. Though it will be even more miso soup if you add some diced tofu, scallions, or whatever to it.

      http://www.miyasaka-jozo.com/english/...

      Trader Joe's sells an Instant Miso Soup, 4 packets to a box - not just powder to make the soup, but freeze-dried tofu and stuff as well.

      There may be ways to make better miso soup, but none simpler!

      1. l
        link_930 RE: David Kahn Feb 2, 2010 12:38 PM

        It's just miso paste stirred into dashi with green onions and tofu. For dashi, simmer kombu and bonito for a little while. Remove kombu and bonito. Stir in miso paste. Simmer. Add cubed tofu. Simmer. Turn off heat and top with chopped green onions.

        2 Replies
        1. re: link_930
          scubadoo97 RE: link_930 Feb 2, 2010 06:13 PM

          I've made my own dashi and have used the instant dashi granules. Both taste good. Just depends on my time factor. I have kombu and bags of bonito in the cabinet but sometimes the granules are just so easy.

          1. re: link_930
            treestonerivershrub RE: link_930 Apr 23, 2012 07:23 AM

            I am a dashi fanatic, but I understand not everyone is as obsessive as I am, and sometimes you must take shortcuts. In the interest of at least using actual kombu and bonito (versus granules), here's a tip to make the process quicker: tie the bonito up in a piece of cheesecloth to make the removal much easier. No straining needed, just pull the cheesecloth bag out of the pot.

          2. Sam Fujisaka RE: David Kahn Feb 3, 2010 02:40 AM

            As others have pointed out, miso soup is as simple as can be: dashi or homemade fish or chicken stock, paste miso blended in a bit of water and lime juice (not included by other posters), tofu, scallions or green onions, touch of grated ginger, shitaake mushrioom, and some wakame or nori. Takes five minutes for breakfast misoshiru.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
              JungMann RE: Sam Fujisaka Feb 3, 2010 05:24 AM

              How much lime juice and ginger do you put in your miso? Sometimes a bowl of miso is too much umami and too little contrast. I've tried sambal and vinegar to add a little balance, but they were never quite right.

              1. re: JungMann
                w
                wattacetti RE: JungMann Feb 3, 2010 05:43 AM

                That's somewhat to taste, but you don't want to overpower the bowl.

                1. re: JungMann
                  Sam Fujisaka RE: JungMann Feb 3, 2010 05:45 AM

                  Juice from one (juicy) lime for about four servings; just a bit of finely grated ginger or a couple of slices tossed in for flavor.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                    FoodFuser RE: Sam Fujisaka Apr 17, 2012 03:55 PM

                    Back in Japan, men in white hats
                    Administering Miso.

                    I will never forget them.
                    They kept it so simple.

                    Simple dollop of Miso
                    to bottom of bowl.

                    Curled from the curve of two dancing spoons.
                    Well sat to the moment fulfillment of Dashi

                    There is wonderful Zen quest
                    in the making of Dashi.

                    The shaving of flakes OF SO GOOD THE bONITO
                    .

                2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                  Gio RE: Sam Fujisaka Apr 14, 2012 07:32 AM

                  Now I know what to do with the kombu, katsuobushi and miso paste that's left over in the pantry from our recent COTM Japanese month. The nice thing is I have all the other ingredients on hand. Thanks Sam.

                  The only question I have is should I use mochigome, brown japonica, or white japonica?... Or... do I even need rice?

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                    f
                    Frizzle RE: Sam Fujisaka Apr 20, 2012 05:45 PM

                    I tried your addition of lime juice and ginger last night, it was delicious, thank you very much for sharing the tip.

                    1. re: Frizzle
                      pikawicca RE: Frizzle Apr 20, 2012 06:15 PM

                      Sadly, Sam is no longer with us.

                  2. thew RE: David Kahn Feb 3, 2010 05:47 AM

                    making dashi is easy - DO NOT SIMMER kombu and bonito flakes.

                    put kombu in cold warter. slowly heat, so that it takes at least 10 minutes to come to a boil. BEFORE it boils remove the kombu. bring to a boil. turn of heat and add bonito flakes. wait a minute or 2 - the flakes should sink. strain. voila - dashi.

                    now take a small amount of dashi and thin miso paste with it, and then add that back into the dashi. BANG - miso soup. add tofu, scallions, and if you like a little wakame seaweed.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: thew
                      c
                      cornflower55 RE: thew Feb 4, 2010 11:42 AM

                      thew's recipe is for ichiban dashi and is good for clear soups. you only keep the bonito flakes in for a couple minutes to preserve a more subtle flavor.

                      many people simmer the bonito flakes for longer to create a secondary (niban) dashi. niban is often created with the leftover bonito and new water, but you can also just simmer the original dashi for longer -- the point is that the bonito flakes still have more flavor to give after 1-2 minutes. this creates a less subtle, but stronger dashi. i think it is better for miso soup.

                      do not keep kombu in the water after it boils or it will let off an unpleasant flavor. after taking the kombu out, simmer the bonito water for longer (10 minutes or so) to release more bonito flavor. then you can strain, and add miso.

                    2. FoodFuser RE: David Kahn Feb 3, 2010 08:16 AM

                      Niboshi are tiny dried fish used in many households to make a fish stock, instead of using the shaved katsuo. They are really really handy.

                      http://webjapanese.com/blog/recipe/he... will give a link to the way to prepare it, along with an excellent picture of a bag of niboshi, which you can print and take to the store. The three largest font characters on the right spell ni-bo-shi.

                      1. v
                        VikingKvinna RE: David Kahn Feb 3, 2010 08:20 AM

                        My approach is unorthodox, but easy and delicious. I don't use bonito, but simmer (a few hours if convenient, or overnight) kombu and dried shiitakes in water in the (gasp!) crockpot. When the dashi is dark and fragrant, I remove those and whisk in miso paste to taste.

                        I don't bother with the tofu and scallions -- I really just like the broth as a warming alternative to coffee or tea. Will have to try the lime and ginger though, that sounds fantastic.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: VikingKvinna
                          t
                          tastesgoodwhatisit RE: VikingKvinna Feb 3, 2010 10:55 PM

                          For the adding the miso part - my husband rubs the miso through a small strainer just at the surface of the liquid, into the dashi broth. This keeps the miso from clumping and is very easy.

                          There are lots of different variations beyond the simple miso and seaweed you get in the restaurants, too.

                          1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                            pikawicca RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Apr 14, 2012 07:57 AM

                            Thanks for the strainer tip. I try to be patient, but sometimes I go a little too quickly and the miso clumps. I'll give this a try.

                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                              herby RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Apr 17, 2012 04:35 PM

                              I really liked the addition of enoki mushrooms - Washoku recipe.

                          2. bgazindad RE: David Kahn Feb 3, 2010 11:44 PM

                            I notice that you live in LA so basic ingredients should be fairly easy to get. One thing that no one has mentioned is that there is red (aka) and white (shiro) miso. White is what you usually see in restaurants with red occasionally being used. I like red. It has a slightly stronger taste. It is slightly darker brown than white miso.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: bgazindad
                              thew RE: bgazindad Feb 4, 2010 03:52 AM

                              there are more than 2 kinds of miso - and you can blend them......

                              1. re: thew
                                bgazindad RE: thew Feb 4, 2010 10:54 AM

                                yes I know. I did not say the there are only two. the OP is inquiring about Miso soup that he gets in LA Japanese restaurants. Typically, that is white or red. OP should know this if he is trying to duplicate it.

                            2. treestonerivershrub RE: David Kahn Apr 23, 2012 07:39 AM

                              I think I ought to point out that the quality of the miso also makes a HUGE difference. And despite my enduring love for dashi, I don't make dashi every time I want miso soup. Starting with a good, high-quality, traditionally made miso is your best bet. I think it can stand alone just mixed with water and make a fine, simple, easy soup.

                              From there you can add in whatever else you fancy...some suggestions other than what people have posted are dried arame, fresh herbs, a soft-boiled egg (or hard boiled, but lately I've been preferring the former), kimchi...honestly miso tastes good with everything, so don't be afraid to try adding in whatever you think would taste good. Miso soup is a great carrier vehicle for leftovers. I've also mixed miso paste into leftover chicken stock, and it was delicious.

                              Back to the quality thing, I don't pretend to know the difference between, say, really expensive sea salt and normal sea salt, but miso is a live, cultured food, and industrially processed miso simply cannot have a great flavor because of the nature of the process of making miso.

                              Other people on this site have discussed South River Miso, and while they are my favorite US-based miso maker by far, their product is hard to find in stores (the only place I've found it so far is Union Market on Court St in Brooklyn). I would also recommend the Westbrae Foods misos. Miso Master is easier to find than both of the previous suggestions, and while it's not a bad choice, it's nowhere near as good as the first two brands I mentioned.

                              I've had bad luck with miso bought in Asian grocery stores, and I'm not sure why that is--whether it's because I can't read the label and know next to nothing about the product or how it was made, or whether because these misos are being manufactured in Asia, shipped long distances under unknown conditions, and perhaps have been kept at too high a temperature and the live cultures have died.

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