And what are the correct ingredients? Dashi, of course, and miso paste. Dashi is a broth made with kombu and bonito flakes. Miso paste is fermented soy beans.
The really obsessive cooks experiment for years to come up with the “perfect” dashi. Should the bonito flakes come from the light or dark meat of the tuna? Should the flakes be boiled, for how long or should they just be dropped in hot water and allowed to steep without boiling?
There are as many ways to cook the “perfect” dashi as there are cooks. If you’re new to Japanese cooking and just getting aquainted with traditional Japanese ingredients, it might sound intimidating. And we’re just talking about the broth.
I admit that, in the beginning, I simply used instant dashi. No guessing. No serious mistakes. It’s not a crime to buy dashi granules and empty a packet or two into a pot of hot water. When you’re more familiar with wakame and bonito flakes, you can start experimenting to come up with what, for you, is the “perfect” dashi.
The rest of the ingredients are simple enough to use. Miso paste is available in vacuum-sealed bags or tubs. Wakame (a seaweed sold mostly dried) is labeled “wakame” in Asian groceries where you can get your tofu as well.
To make miso soup, start by cutting your tofu into small cubes and soaking the wakame in hot water until rehydrated. Note that the amount of wakame specified in the ingredients list below might seem too little but the dried seaweed will double in volume when soaked. So, what appears to be too little is actually just right for a pot of soup.
Start heating your dashi in a pot. As you wait for it to come to a boil, slice the wakame. Place your miso paste in a heatproof bowl, add the wakame soaking liquid and a little of the hot dashi. Mix to make a pourable paste.
When the dashi is hot, stir in the diluted miso paste, drop in the wakame and tofu cubes, and just wait until the soup comes to a simmer. Turn off the heat, add scallions and your miso soup is ready to serve.
That’s really all there is to it. Basic miso soup. If you want to add meat, mushrooms, seafood and vegetables, try the following.
- Cut the tofu into half-inch cubes.
- Soak the dried wakame in hot water until rehydrated and softened.
- In a pot, heat the dashi until barely simmering.
- Drain the wakame and squeeze off excess water; save the soaking water.
- Cut the wakame into half inch slices.
- Place the miso paste in a cup, add the still hot soaking liquid and add just enough dashi from the pot to dissolve the miso into a thin paste.
- Pour the miso into the dashi (make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the cup), add the wakame and tofu.
- Stir the miso soup and when it comes to a simmer once more, turn off the heat.
- Stir in the scallions before serving.