I haven’t posted any recipes in a long time, but I have so many scraps of paper and notes in my computer that I would love to share. Let me start with miso soup, which is really quite easy.
Miso is one of the superheroes of plant-based cooking as it gives us what the Japanese call umami: the fifth basic taste, after sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It is pleasantly savory, deriving from glutamates, which are proteins found in fish, shellfish, cured meats but also in mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, and a few other vegetables. Sold as a paste, it is made by fermenting any mix of soybeans, barley, rice, buckwheat, millet, rye, wheat, hemp seed, and others with salt and the fungus kōjikin for up to several years. Lately, other countries have begun selling miso made from chickpeas, corn, azuki beans, amaranth, and quinoa.
In the past, every housewife in Japan would have her own miso recipe. For miso beginners, there are two main types: white miso is made from chickpea, barley or rice, has a cheesy taste and is from the hotter South of Japan. Red or black miso is usually from soy and has been fermenting longer. It has a stronger meaty flavour and is typical for Japan’s cooler North. Miso makes a tasty dip or spread, and works wonders in sauces, salad dressings, and of course soups.
At a cooking afternoon with some yoga friends in Ubud, Fumi, originally from Osaka, kindly gave me her traditional miso soup recipe. My raw chef teacher Sayuri, also Japanese, also shared her version with us. Give it a try! Look for good organic miso with no added chemicals, experiment, and find your favourites. You will find all the ingredients in organic supermarkets, health-food and Asian stores.
Fumi’s Traditional Japanese Miso Soup (serves 1 big bowl)
(more recipes from Fumi on her Japanese blog)
- 2 dried shitake mushrooms
- 10cm dried kombu seaweed (just brush off the dirt, don’t wash)
- Handful of diced potato, pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato or other long-cooking vegetable (optional)
- 2 heaped tbsp miso
- 1 tbsp dry wakame (seaweed, available in all health food/organic stores)
- Handful of diced tofu (optional)
- Handful of light vegetables like spinach leaves, grated radish, snow peas, asparagus, broccoli (optional/to taste)
- Chives, spring onions or any other herb for serving
- Handful of cooked rice (good for leftovers/optional)
1. Soak the dry shitake and the kombu in 1 liter of pure water overnight.
2. The next day, remove the mushrooms and kombu and set aside (you can use them for another dish, they are traditionally not used for the soup).
3. Bring the stock/water to the boil, add the long-cooking vegetables, boil until almost done.
4. Add tofu and any vegetables that only need to be lightly boiled.
5. After a minute or two turn heat down as we do not want to boil miso!
6. Add the miso (through a strainer to get it to dissolve better) and the wakame.
7. If you want the soup hotter than it is now, re-heat but ensure you don’t bring it to the boil again.
8. Sprinkle with herbs and serve.
- 200g or 2 cups shitake mushrooms
- 1 tsp kelp powder (optional)
- 1 tbs Tamari (or Nama Shoyu, or other organic soya sauce)
- 2 tbs olive oil to marinate
- 2 tbs miso
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cm fresh ginger, peeled, chopped
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbs dried wakame
- chopped chives or spring onion to garnish
1. Marinate mushrooms in oil and tamari for 30 minutes.
2. Put half the mushrooms, the water, oil, kelp powder, miso and ginger in a blender and blend until smooth and slightly warm (if you have a high-speed blender).
3. Pour into a bowl, stir in the rest of the mushrooms and the wakame
4. Garnish with the chives/onions and serve.