The days are getting shorter and the weather’s getting colder, making it the perfect time of year for enjoying a warming soup.
In Japan, Miso soup comes with everything, whatever the weather. In fact, along with rice it is one of the key ingredients of a traditional Japanese breakfast and most of the 128million or so people that live there will have Miso soup at least once a day.
It is a clear broth which sometimes has chunks of seaweed or tofu in it and has a distinctive smoky taste. It normally comes served in a small, lacquered bowl with a lid and is drunk straight from the bowl with the solid ingredients eaten with chopsticks.
The Miso stock is known as dashi and is a fish stock made from dried fish and kelp. Miso itself is a seasoning made from a base of barley, rice or soybeans which are fermented to form a salty paste. For the soup, Miso paste is softened and mixed into the dashi. The other ingredients are added according to taste or regional variation and can include mushrooms, vegetables, tofu, daikon radish or wakame seaweed to name a few.
There are different types of Miso pastes which give a different character or flavour to the soup which, again, vary according to the region you are visiting and the season.
Miso soup normally comes at the start of your meal and, in Japan, usually precedes a salad course. It is surprisingly filling, even though it is mostly a broth, and is known for being very low in fat and having a high a high vitamin content.
If you don’t fancy making a dashi from scratch, there are a number of delicious instant Miso soup brands available which just need a kettle and are ideal for lunch. Tasty Miso paste can also be used as a marinade for meat, fish or vegetables or as a stock for noodle soup.
It is a versatile and unusual flavour that’s quite unique but can add a rich smoky dimension to your meals this autumn.