Miso soup is a Japanese soup, which is traditionally made with a stock called dashi. If you don’t have dashi, and can’t make your own, that’s ok!
Keep reading to learn how to make a tasty miso-style soup with different kinds of broth.
Miso soup is one of my favourite dishes to order when I go out for Japanese food. It’s a simple dish – just broth with miso paste, a sprinkling of green onions and tiny pieces of tofu. Like a good chicken soup, it’s both delicious and comforting.
Comfort is something that I’m clinging to right now, because my year started off in a very uncomfortable way.
I had been sick all through December, but thought that maybe I just had a flu bug. It seemed like everyone was sick around Christmas, so I didn’t think much of it.
Then at 5:30am on January 1st, I woke up with searing pain in my left arm, shoulder, neck, jaw, chest and back. Being the stubborn person that I am, I tried to rub muscle relaxant on it and ignore the pain but that didn’t last very long.
My mom eventually persuaded me to let her take me to the hospital, because that kind of pain can be caused by a heart attack.
After spending 20 hours in the ER having multiple blood tests, a chest x-ray and a CT scan, they couldn’t tell me why I was having pain. We did discover another issue that I need to keep an eye on though, which I would never have known I had without getting the CT scan.
Funny how these things work right?
I’m still in the process of having tests done and waiting for results. Meanwhile, I’ve been told that I need to avoid caffeine, alcohol and fast food, and increase my intake of probiotics.
This is where the miso soup comes in.
I recently found out that miso is a good source of probiotics (healthy bacteria) that can be beneficial to people who are having digestion issues.
Organic miso paste is very tasty, and can usually found in the refrigerator section of your grocery. The organic versions do not contain ethyl alcohol and have low amounts of sodium, unlike the shelf-stable versions of the paste.
Once you have your miso paste (I used white miso paste), you need your broth. Traditionally, you would use dashi – a broth made with bonito flakes (dried fish flakes) and kombu (dried kelp), which adds to the overall umami of the dish.
I went to multiple grocery stores and couldn’t find liquid dashi anywhere. It doesn’t look like you can buy it in those tetra-pack containers like chicken broth.
I did find a product called Hondashi, which is instant dashi powder. This is your best option if you want your miso soup to taste more like the real thing.
For the sake of experimentation, I thought I’d try making dashi from scratch. So I set out to find bonito flakes and kombu to make my stock.
I couldn’t find kombu in any stores, but did manage to find it online. Instead of bonito, I bought dried shiitake mushrooms which can be used to make a vegan version of dashi. (I’m not vegan, the mushrooms were just easier to find).
I made the broth, and long story short, I messed it up BIG TIME. It was horrible.
Which, honestly isn’t surprising considering I’ve never made this before and really had no idea what I was doing. I sadly ended up pouring the whole thing down the drain, and I still have no idea what I did wrong.
I did try making a vegan dashi again, this time from just the shiitake mushrooms soaked in water. The result was better, but it had a bitterness that I didn’t really like.
I used lukewarm water and left it for about 4 hours… maybe it was just too many mushrooms for the amount of water I used?
Clearly, I need to do better research before attempting to make dashi again.
I wanted to see if I could make a miso-style soup with other kinds of broths. After testing my soup recipe multiple times, I figured out a few things.
First, you can technically make miso soup with just water, but the resulting soup is kind of bland.
Vegetable stock works just fine, as does fish stock, but choose the tetra-pack options over the dried stock cubes. The cubes tend to overpower the miso flavour, and they’re often very salty.
My friend Lisa over at The Viet Vegan says she uses a store-bought mushroom stock for her miso soup, so that’s another option for you.
Chicken stock is the only stock that really doesn’t work if you’re going for that traditional miso soup flavour. That’s not to say that you can’t use chicken stock, which actually makes a tasty miso chicken soup, but just know that it will taste very different from what you get at the restaurant.
If you want to get that “restaurant” taste, and don’t know how to make your own dashi, you really have to use the instant dashi powder. It’s not hard to find, and it makes a very tasty broth.
My friend Mandy picked up a small bottle for me when we were shopping for the Singaporean Style Slaw recipe, and the miso-style soup I made with the powder was delicious.
There were no instructions on how to properly dilute the stock on the bottle, so I referred to this blog post from Steamy Kitchen (worth reading to learn how to make real miso soup!) and used 1 teaspoon for every 2 cups of water.
Regardless of what you use for your broth, there is one really important tip that you need to keep in mind when making your miso soup: do not boil the miso paste!
Boiling the paste makes it become grainy in texture, and you risk losing the health benefits too.
Instead, take a bit of warm broth and melt the paste into it before adding the mixture to the soup. That one small step will make a big difference in the texture of your soup.
Easy Miso-Style Soup
- In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a boil.
- Add tofu cubes and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
- Meanwhile, place 1/4 cup of miso in a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup of warm broth from the pot to the bowl, and stir with a spoon to liquify the miso paste.
- Remove the saucepan from heat, and skim off any residue (white foam) that may have formed on the surface of the broth.
- Stir in the liquified miso paste into the broth to combine. Taste the broth. If you find it needs more flavour, you can add more miso to the soup one tablespoon at a time.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with green onion and roasted seaweed, if desired.
- Buy organic miso paste if possible (usually found in the refrigerator section of your grocery)
- If using Hondashi instant dashi, use 1 tsp of granules to 2 cups of water. Adjust to taste.
- You can try making this soup with chicken stock, however, it will taste more like chicken soup than traditional miso soup. Recipe adapted from: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/elemental-miso-soup Please note that the nutritional information for this recipe is only an estimate, and has been calculated using a plugin.
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