Miso Soup – 味噌汁 – Japanese Soul Food

 Miso soup is truly Japanese soul food.  it is eaten any time of day, any season of the year.  It can be delicate and simple or, hearty, as you choose.  To it can be added meats, vegetables, seafood, tofu. It is up to you.

I make a vegetable version which I have listed below. You can use dashi in place of the water.  Dashi is easy to make.  Four cups of water and two handfuls (four small packs) of dried bonita flakes. Add the bonita to the boiling water and simmer for about three minutes. Strain. Some people add some shredded kombu (dried seaweed). The taste will be different with either just water or with dashi.

There are different kinds of miso paste. I prefer the white (shiromiso) to the red (akamiso) or mixed (awase). You can also purchase miso granules or even, dashi granules. Be aware that sometimes, these “instant” varieties can be high in sodium and/or contain MSG.  Ingredients can usually be purchased at any Asian food store or even, in regular groceries.

Ingredients added to miso soup tend to be seasonal. Usually, you have heavier ingredients that sink, such as potatoes, onions, carrots, tofu, meat and an ingredient that floats – sliced scallions, mushrooms, seaweed, slivered kale, etc. My favorite is with potatoes and onions but I also like the version below with tofu and scallions.

Simmer your veggies or meat in the dashi/broth and remove from the heat. I use a tea strainer to incorporate the miso into the broth. I immerse the strainer and add the miso to the strainer. Using a wooden spoon, I mix the miso around until it is all dissolved into the broth. I briefly reheat and add the floating ingredient. Tofu is delicate and does not need to be simmered, just heated through. Do not boil or overheat the miso. It will change the flavor and also, some of the benefits of the miso will be destroyed.

Miso Soup
4 cups water
1/3 cup miso
2 green onions (scallions) chopped
1 tbs. shredded nor or wakame seaweed
1/2 block silken tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
dash soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil (optional)
bit of finely grated fresh ginger (optional)

Preparation:  Bring water to a slow simmer and add seaweed. Allow to simmer at least 5-6 minutes. The longer you simmer the seaweed, the less of a salty fishy flavor it will have.  (I omit as I do not care for the fishy taste.)  Reduce heat to very low and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until miso is well dissolved. Makes 4 servings.

Variation:  Peel and chop two potatoes and 1 small onion. Add to water and simmer until tender. Add the miso and scallion.

Miso Soup

Miso Soup (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Fried Tofu – For Beni

I really love fried tofu.  Sometimes, I dust with my special fried chicken seasoning and fry.  Mostly, I fix this simply.  I serve it with several dipping sauces, such as a sweet garlic chili sauce or soy flavored with slivers of ginger, sesame oil, and sliced scallion.  I personally just like it plain – hot and crispy on the outside, hot and almost custardy on the inside.  A member of the 11/16 Society shared this with me years ago.  It was one of our favorite appetizers to serve to visitors to our home.  Some may say this isn’t authentic Japanese, but since he is authentic Japanese, I beg to differ.

This is not the Japanese agedashi dofu, which is usually served with a dashi broth or a soya dipping sauce.  I suppose you could use these cubes in agedashi dofu.  My friend enjoys this but like me, he just liked the fried tofu – neat!

Servings: 4 appetizer portions

1 block extra firm or firm tofu

cornstarch for dusting

peanut or other high temperature oil for frying.

Press the tofu down, leaving something heavy (such as a cutting board stacked with your heaviest cookbooks) on top to squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and dust lightly with cornstarch before frying.

Pan-fry the cubes of tofu in a wok or medium, deep, heavy-bottom saucepan: Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the wok or pan or, come halfway up the side of a tofu cube and heat over medium-high heat until hot – about 375 degrees. Test the oil with one cube of tofu, adjusting the heat as necessary so the cube fries quickly but does not burn. Fry the cubes in a single layer, making sure the pieces do not touch, until crisp on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes total. Repeat until all of the tofu pieces are cooked; this may need to be done in 2 batches. I use chopsticks to turn and remove cubes.  Drain the pieces on a paper towel lined plate.

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