Foodie Friday - Miso Soup

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Miso is made from soybean paste, traditionally used in Japan to flavor soups, and highly valued for its ability to strengthen the digestive system.

Miso is sold in a variety of flavors and strengths, the most nutritious and commonly used being barley miso.. made from soybeans and barley, and aged for two years. Other varieties are used for soups, sauces, dips and other dish enhancements, and range from very dark and intense in flavor, to light and sweet, and can be made with corn, millet, or chickpeas. You may find them under the names of white, red, barley, hatcho, or mugi.

For starters here, we will use barley miso... it has a nice rich, but not too heavy flavor. Miso, being a fermented food, is rich in active enzymes which aid digestion, and therefore it should always be added at the end of the soup cooking time, and care should be taken not to let it boil, thereby destroying the enzymatic activity. Boiling will also make the miso bitter.

This is a recipe for a nice basic soup, such as you might find when ordering it in a Japanese restaurant (though I have been informed that many establishments use a premixed bulk stock for their soup, not a true miso broth at all.. hence the uniformity from restaurant to restaurant).Different brands of miso will give different flavors, so experiment! Miso Master is one of my favorites, but there are several out there to explore.

I like to make a basic pot in the morning (it's actually quite nice and traditionally eaten at breakfast!), maybe adding a few vegetables like carrots, daikon and onions, and then, if there's leftovers later in the day or the next, I'll add leftover grains, tofu, beans or other cooked veggies and gently reheat it. Christina Pirello says leftover foods are fine to eat, but always add something fresh to give it more vitality, especially if it's coming out of the fridge. Even something as simple as chopped parsley or other herbs, or fresh grated ginger stirred in is a nice warming addition.

See, the possibilities are wide open! Enjoy!!

From "Cooking the Whole Foods Way", by Christina Pirello:

Minute Miso Soup

'Okay, so it really takes 6 minutes to make this soup, but it's still quick and easy..'

  • 3 cups spring or filtered water
  • 1 (3") piece wakame, soaked and diced
  • 1 small onion, cut lengthwise into thin slices
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons barley miso
  • small handful fresh parsley, minced

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add wakame and simmer 1 minute. Add onion and simmer 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove a small amount of broth, add miso and stir until dissolved. Stir mixture into soup and simmer 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve garnished with fresh parsley. Makes 4 servings.