Few dishes are as representative of a Japanese home cooked meal as miso soup. Miso soup accompanies breakfast, lunch and dinner and is as much of a staple on the Japanese table as steamed short grain rice. About a mug’s worth at a time is served in a small bowl, and it is typically drunk directly-- no spoon required (though chopsticks might be used to pick up bigger pieces ingredients). Miso soup has as many variations as there are households in Japan; each family makes it a little differently, according to their unique tastes and preferences. The key ingredients for miso soup are dashi-- a light clear broth made from kombu seaweed and katsuobushi fish flakes-- and miso-- the fermented soybean paste that gives the soup its name.
Additional ingredients and garnishes can vary, but common ones include wakame seaweed, nameko mushrooms, finely chopped silken tofu, simmered eggplant slices, daikon radish slices, spinach, and leeks. In spite of the near-infinite varieties to be found, making your own miso soup from scratch is far from daunting. It is actually quite easy and the taste of fresh miso soup is far superior to the vast majority of instant, pre-made ones. Use the following recipe to make your very own miso soup, from scratch at home!
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Steeping Time for dashi: 30 mins
Total Time: 55 mins
Makes about 4 cups. 1 cup is needed per serving.
4 cups water
1 piece kombu (dried kelp) (⅓ oz, 10 g; 4" x 4" or 10 x 10 cm)
1 cup katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
To complete the soup:
1 tbsp miso per planned serving (awase miso is a good choice for a rounded flavor)
1 block medium firm silken tofu, chopped into cubes. About ¼ cup per serving should suffice.
2 tbsp rehydrated wakame seaweed per planned serving.
Green onion, finely chopped to garnish
To make dashi, first place 1 piece of kombu in a large measuring cup with 4 cups of water. Allow the kombu to steep in the water for at least 30 minutes.
Transfer the kombu and water to a medium-sized saucepan and very slowly bring to a low boil. Remove the kombu as the water starts to boil-- leaving it in as the dashi is boiling will cause it to have a slightly bitter taste.
Add the katsuobushi flakes and boil them for about 1 minute, then turn off the heat and allow to steep for an additional 10 minutes.
Pour the dashi through a fine mesh strainer to remove the katsuobushi flakes. Your dashi will keep for 3-5 days in the refrigerator.
As a note, instant dashi in the form of concentrated liquid, powder, pellets, and even a steep-able teabag does exist, and does taste good, but won’t carry the complex and subtle aroma that fresh dashi has.
Add your desired amount of dashi to a small to medium sized saucepan. You’ll need approximately 1 cup of dashi per serving of miso soup.
Bring the dashi to a simmer and add 1 tablespoon of miso per serving. Make sure to stir the miso in carefully so that it dissolves completely. Otherwise you’ll be left with occasional lumps of concentrated miso, which is very salty and overpowering on its own.
Once the miso is completely dissolved, add your desired amount of tofu and wakame. There should be enough that you can see either ingredient easily, but not so much that your miso soup turns to stew.
Using a ladle, transfer about a cup’s worth of miso soup into a small bowl, and sprinkle freshly chopped green onion on top before serving.
Enjoy miso soup with breakfast, lunch or dinner!