All good miso soups begin with the proper dashi broth. I sometimes make a dashi broth with shaved bonito flakes or katsuobushi but sometime I keep it vegan and use mushrooms to add that umami flavor. You can use dried shitake for that or you can feature the mushrooms in your soup and make a veggie forward meal.
That is the intention here for those hearty needs on cooler days and winter nights. I love cooking japanese food and always have the following ingredients on hand: tamari, nori, wakame, dulse, unpasteurized organic miso, natto, shiso, umeboshi vinegar, umeboshi paste, kombu, furikake, and shichimi. You won't need all of those here as this is simply an introduction to bringing in japanese style cuisine to your clean and healthy diet. Did you know that in Japan people have moved away from even making their own dashi broth in favor of packaged and processed powder? Such a shame since it is so easy. I could argue the same about miso soup. It is time to empower ourselves to make food that nurtures and nourishes us. In so many words, clean and soak a strip of kombu for 30 minutes, then place in water to boil. As the bubbles begin to form, take out the kombu. You don't want to over boil the kombu just as you definitely don't want to boil the precious miso. Find step-by-step instruction by the expert, here.
I like to use firm tofu or extra firm in this recipe as you do not want it to fall apart and the hot liquid will cook it enough. I also must remind you that like most commercially fermented items coming from Japan, you need to be on the lookout for miso that is aged 6 months for mellow or white and a year for red. You do not want to buy pasteurized or any ingredients that stray from koji spores, soybeans (or chickpeas, brown rice, barley, etc) and salt. Any other additives or labeling should be avoided. I am a huge fan of the Miso Master Organic brand miso. Remember as much as I love soy beans, the are high in phytic acid and with their high fat and protein vs. carbohydrate density, it is important to ferment long enough so it can break down this phytic acid to allow the body to assimilate the food you are eating instead of inhibiting its absorption. Which miso flavor is right for you? Check out this post for more on the various types and flavors. Generally the deeper color, the higher percentage of soy to koji, and the longer the ferment yields a deeper flavor. This is the kind I like but I know many who prefer a mellow white.
Some of these mushrooms are cultivated organically and can be found at the japanese supermarket but I also find them wildly grown from LAfungi who sells at the friday morning farmer's market in Venice, CA. Also, I am a huge fan of seaweed and try and put it in every recipe I can think to! So be on the lookout for more uses in upcoming recipes.
4 cups dashi broth
1 strip kombu
1 packet extra firm organic tofu
1 head maitake or hen of the woods mushrooms
1 head enoki mushrooms
1 head shimeji mushrooms
3-4 T traditional red or white miso
2 T dried wakame seaweed
1 stalk negi or green onion
1 T tamari, gluten-free soy sauce if needed
optional add-ins: shichimi spice, chilli infused sesame oil
As you make your dashi, prepare your veggies by making small slices of carrot, cutting off stems of the mushrooms and breaking them down into one or two bite sized chunks. Once the dashi broth is made, keep the heat on low and add the carrots and mushrooms and any other veggie you'd like. Simmer for a few minutes and add the tofu for another few minutes. You want the veg to be cooked but doesn't need to fully soft if you like them more al dente. Then turn off the heat and add in your miso. You will need to work it into the pan to get it to dissolve into the broth. Be sure not to boil your miso paste! Lastly, add in about 2 T of dried wakame, which will expand fairly quickly in time for you to serve. As you serve into large bowls, garnish with slices negi or green onion.
If you'd like some spice, feel free to drizzle or sprinkle some shichimi or chili infused sesame oil. Yum!