Miso soup must be the quickest soup in the world.
Forget all the traditional recipes.
Level 1 (easiest) – If you pour hot water into a mug cup and put in some miso, swirl it around to dissolve, you have miso soup. That really is it. If you are starting with your excellent homemade miso, this instant soup should already taste pretty good. We can’t do the same with soy sauce. Or salt. Or ketchup. Miso is special.
You can stop reading here. But for those of you who want to spend 10 more minutes in the kitchen to experience better soup, here’s a more advanced version.
Level 2 (still very easy) – Let’s try adding some veggies to it. Because it’ll taste better, and because you always need more veggies in your diet. They will add flavor and texture to the soup, making it more complex and therefore more satisfying. Boil some water in a small pan. Put in 2 kinds of chopped vegetables. Maybe potatoes and spinach, but anything is OK. Miso goes with pretty much anything. Cook the veggies in the water until they are done. Turn off heat. Swirl in some miso. Taking care to add miso at the last stage is crucial, because the fragrance gets lost if you boil it. This is especially important to remember for younger miso.
You can stop reading here. Your soup is already pretty good. Still want to go further?
Level 3 (pretty easy) – You want to play with the broth? Go to a store and find katsuobushi, dried bonito flakes. The kind that come in several smaller single use packages in a bag is handy and keeps better. Don’t read the instructions on the package. Follow instructions for Level 2 to prepare your soup. Add a pinch of the flakes to your soup after you’ve poured it into your bowl, just before eating. Experience the difference this very slight bit of fish element makes. Katsuobushi is wonderful. Used like this, it’s the world’s cheapest and quickest soup base.
You can stop reading here. Your soup is now excellent.
Level 4 (still easy, getting creative and fun) – Let’s wonder what else we can do about the broth. Maybe you don’t have katsuobushi in your kitchen but still crave a good soup. Any light stock is good for miso soup. In a pinch, you can add some milk to your pot and it will be tasty, too. The photo above is a milk-miso soup. Because the miso paste is entirely vegetable based, adding amino acids from something animal based makes a huge difference in the umami factor of the soup. A bit of chicken stock, a couple slivers of any meat or fish, half a teaspoon of butter, anything. For vegans, any kind of vegetable stock is fine. Aquafaba works well. I often do not peel the potatoes to add extra flavors that come from the skin, and skip the broth idea altogether. That’s a good reason to buy organic produce.
Now you know. That is all there is to it.
For those of you who want to know what I do in my kitchen to create something that tastes truly Japanese, I will have to do another post.