Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Exactly is Miso?

I've never been a stranger to Japanese food. In fact, one of my earliest memories is of being at a party and tasting octopus and thinking it tasted like rubber. I was around five years old, and an adventurous eater (I have always had a love affair with food). My father was working for Ikegami Electronics, the manufacturer of the finest television cameras in the world, and the Japanese are wildly hospitable. So along with receiving gifts galore from his boss and co-workers, I received the gift of sushi.

I don't remember when I had miso soup for the first time. All I know is that I dug it. And twenty years ago, when I was a first year law student, I attempted making a miso soup with noodles and vegetables for a new friend. I was newly living in Los Angeles and excited about shopping in the Asian markets there. My noodle soup creation was gross and I'm impressed that my friend Lisa still wanted anything to do with me after that culinary fiasco. It was like I was feeding her poison.

I'm happy to report that when I made Miso Soup with Buckwheat Soba Noodles this time, things went much, much better. Why?

We have the Internet now!

Thank you to my cousin Ira and his wife Angela for sharing this link with us for the South River Miso Company. I think you will find this video very interesting. It answered all of my questions about what miso is and how it is made.

Exactly twenty years later, my second attempt at miso soup. This time, perfection!

Miso Soup with Buckwheat Soba Noodles
inspired by Susan at Fat Free Vegan who posted her recipe the day I went to my local Asian Market

Printable Recipe

12 cups water
1/2 Tbsp dulse flakes or wakame or other seaweed
1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots
1 1/2 ounces dried shitake and/or porchini mushrooms
1 medium head napa cabbage, sliced
15 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
8 Tbsp mellow white miso
red pepper flakes
2 scallions, sliced
1small bunch watercress
1/2 package firm tofu, drained and cut into small cubes

In a pot, bring water for cooking noodles to a boil. Cook noodles slightly under the package direction time (al dente). Drain noodles and run under cold water. Reserve.

In another large pot, place water, seaweed, carrots and dried mushrooms. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for 20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.

Add shredded napa cabbage to soup and cook for another 5 minutes.

Place miso in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid from the soup. Whisk until lumps disappear. Add mixture to the soup but do not let soup boil.

Taste and add red pepper flakes to taste.

Place individual servings of noodles into a soup bowl. Ladle on soup. Garnish to taste with tofu, scallions, watercress, and/or cilantro.

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