How to Make Miso Soup
Start to Finish: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 1-cup bowls
The steaming, salty broth topped with tofu and scallions served to you before your sushi tray actually has hundreds of variations in Japan. Miso soup is often eaten for breakfast along with eggs, pickles and rice; or at dinner enhanced with various vegetables, including pumpkin, onion, potato and cabbage, as well as occasionally with shellfish.
The key to a tasty miso soup is a quality dashi, a stock often made from dried bonito — or tuna — flakes. Unlike stocks made in Western kitchens, this Japanese staple cooks up in minutes. The miso, which is a salty, fermented bean paste, is what makes the soup distinct and addictive.
- 6 cups cool water
- 1 strip of kombu — dried kelp — about 3 by 7 inches in size
- 1 cup dried bonito flakes
- 8 ounces firm tofu, diced
- 4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
- 5 tablespoons red miso
Make the Dashi
Add the water to a large pot and drop in a strip of kombu. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and remove the kombu from the broth using a spider or tongs. Add the bonito flakes and let the broth stand for about 3 to 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Place the broth back in the pot.
Make the Soup
Bring the pot of broth to a rapid boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Spoon about 1 cup of the hot broth into a deep bowl and add the miso. Whisk until the miso dissolves. Return the miso and broth mixture to the full pot of broth and stir to fully integrate the miso into the soup.
Add the tofu and cook at a low simmer for just a minute or two, to warm the tofu.
Ladle into serving bowls and top with scallion slices. Serve immediately.
Red miso has a flavor you may be accustomed to as it’s often used in restaurants, but you can use white miso — which is sweeter — or yellow miso — which is earthier. When using white miso, you may need to add just a tablespoon or two more to get a good flavor. Use the recipe as a guideline for adding miso — add more or less according to your tastes.
Vary the flavor of your miso soup by using different dashis. Leave out the tuna flakes and simply boil the kombu in water for a kombu-only dashi; use 1/4 to 1/2 cup dried sardines, instead of the tuna flakes; or make a shiitake mushroom dashi by using about 1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms instead of the tuna flakes. The use of kombu in the sardine and shiitake dashis is optional.
If you’re in a big hurry or simply can’t find the ingredients to make dashi, substitute boxed chicken or vegetable broth for the dashi. You’ll end up with a soup that has a different flavor than traditional miso soup, but one that is nourishing and satisfying just the same.