ah my dear friend miso soup. you can be so mediocre. you can be so heavy handed. so fishy. so salty. so overly miso-y. yet deep within your murky depths you have the potential to be more, so very much more than a finger-bowl for the tastebuds.
you are more than miso and water. you are sake. you are wakame. you are negi. carrot and maybe daikon too. but mostly, to me, you are kombu-dashi.
before continuing to the rest of the post, click here for some bizarre news, japanese-style.
this is my secret weapon in my japanese arse, i mean, arsenal. as a vegetarian i eschew the hondashi, the fish based stock that is japanese cuisine. as a hungry realist i close my eyes and look the other was when eating out at japanese restaurants. but when cooking at home i use kombu dashi, which is a vegetarian seaweed stock. it can be made at home and i will later post a recipe for it, but the dried version that can be purchased at japanese and asian groceries is way, way better. the brand i buy come five to a bag each serving is wrapped in a green cylindrical paper. they kinda look like short, fat pixie sticks. just ask for konbu dashi.
the other very important point is the miso. i've found it to be important to use a combination of miso types. i use about one half the red miso paste and one half the lighter, sweeter white miso paste. when trying to get the balance right it is tempting to throw in more miso but beware this can overpower the soup. a few sprinkles of salt will usually bring up the flavors without making the miso flavor too ham-fisted.
5 cups konbu dashi (i use 5 c. water plus one tube of dried dashi stock)
3 Tablespoons miso (half red and half white, or all white but you will need to add extra salt)
dried wakame seaweed
1/4 carrot, sliced into thin rounds
2 Tablespoons sake
1/4 cup tofu, cubed very small
2 scallions, finely chopped (yes! use the green part too)
salt to taste
bring stock to a boil and add sliced carrot. you can also buy these pretty little flower shaped cutters (like cookie cutters but for vegetables) at asian grocery stores and make pretty little shapes. pretty little flower-y shapes. if you like you can also add a little thinly sliced daikon. daikon is that huge, long, snow white radish. in japan the mean boys used to call girls with thick legs "daikon ashi". ashi, as you probably guessed, means leg. not nice.
put the veggies into the stock and simmer for a few minutes. add cubed tofu. add wakame... just a small amount (1 Tablespoon dried - it really expands) and snipped into short sections with a scissors. immediately add sake and miso. i usually take some of the stock water and mix it into the miso so it incorporates more easily into the stock. now, turn off the heat. "they" say you shouldn't boil miso soup. swish everything around and adjust seasonings to taste. you may be tempted to add more miso paste but wait and try just a few sprinkles of salt instead. serve with thinly sliced green onion.