Friday, January 18, 2008

Gawd, I'm so Asian!

It's been a rough week. Not only has my experiments tanked (as usual), it is frigid here in Chicago. I walked home from the lab earlier this evening and by the time I got home, my cheeks and thighs were frozen solid! But there's nothing a bowl of homemade soup can't warm up immediately, so I made miso soup.

Miso soup equates comfort to me. I grew up eating Japanese food pretty regularly because my parents love Japanese food. So, what is miso anyway? Miso is basically fermented soy bean paste. There are a few types of miso; namely, white, red and black miso. Miso soup is a Japanese culinary staple but miso itself is increasingly used in many other contexts, such as glaze on fish and in sauces. A few factors that determine the flavor of miso include the length of fermentation and the other raw materials added to it. Other grains that have been used include barley, quinoa and adzuki. Unfortunately, the miso I happen to have in my possesion isn't that exciting. It's just plain reduced sodium misoshiru, but it'll have to do! Don't you just love that the Japanese always uses cute cartoon characters on everything? Even miso! :)

I started off by boiling a quart of water in a saucepan before putting a dashi bag in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Dashi is another uniquely Japanese ingredient that is analogous to bouillon but is flavored with kombu (edible kelp). The dashi bags I have happen to also have bonito flavor. The term "bonito" refers to a species of predatory fish that belongs in the mackerel family. Again, it gives dishes a distinctly Japanese flavor.

While boiling the dashi bag, I diced some tofu and some green onion. Miso is an incredibly versatile ingredient. Besides tofu and seaweed, which are the most popular "fillings" of miso soup, you can many other things such as shellfish, mushrooms and noodles. I love love love tofu so I added a whole block of tofu to my soup. I'm so Asian sometimes, haha!

After boiling the tofu for about another 5 minutes, I turned off the heat and removed the pan from the stove. After letting it cool for a few minutes, I stirred in two tablespoons of the delicious miso. It can take a few minutes for the miso to dissolve, especially if it is cold. It's crucial to never EVER boil miso and to add the miso paste only after you removed the soup from the heat. Boiling miso will create a bitter flavor and destroy the beneficial cultures.

I topped my miso soup with sliced green onions and I had to have two whole servings! Other toppings include fried scallions (which is such an Indonesian thing to do) and seaweed. Homemade miso soup is the perfect remedy to a frigid Chicago winter day.

Recipe for Miso Soup

1 quart water
1 dashi stock bag
1/2 of a 16-oz block of your favorite tofu (you can use the whole block if you love tofu, like me), diced
2 Tbsp. miso paste
Sliced green onion

Bring the water to a roiling boil in a saucepan. Put the dashi bag in the boiling water and let it continue to boil for 5 minutes.

Take the dashi bag out and add the diced tofu. Boil another 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add dashi and stir until it dissolves.

Ladle into bowl, top with sliced green onions and itadakimasu!

1 comment:

glamah16 said...

I need to explore Miso. All the soups I have had I haven't been crazy about. I think its perhaps I haven't had a good representation of it. You make it sound so good. So where are you going to shop now? Heard Treasure Island is coming in 1 month to the old CoOp.

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