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How to Make Authentic Miso Soup

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My baachan (a Japanese word for grandmother) is extremely diligent when it comes to making miso soup, and here is what I learned from her.

This is the soup before it meets its soul mate, the miso. (Don't worry, they get together in the end!)

This is the soup before it meets its soul mate, the miso. (Don't worry, they get together in the end!)

Where I Learned My Miso Soup Tricks

Every summer, from a wee age, I have gone to Japan to live in my grandparent's house. My baachan (the Japanese word for grandmother) is extremely diligent when it comes to making miso soup, and she adheres to the following creed:

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift [making of miso soup].

Here's the recipe I use, and it leaves plenty of room for improvisation!

Pretty obvious what this is. Probably shouldn't have even put up the picture.

Pretty obvious what this is. Probably shouldn't have even put up the picture.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

If you need to serve more than two, just double the ingredients (obviously), but for now i'm sticking with a small-sized batch in case you hate it (which is pretty much impossible):

  1. 2.25 cups of water (you can add more or less, depending on how much broth you like or if it ends up being too salty).
  2. 1 teaspoon of dashi. (You can alternatively use niboshi, which are dried fish. If you do, I'd recommend putting in 1 or 2 at the most.)
  3. 1 - 1.5 teaspoons of soy sauce. I recommend the good ol' classic Kikkoman.
  4. Optional splash of sake (no more than 2 teaspoons)
  5. 2 semi-heaping tablespoons of miso (you can obviously adjust this to your taste)

Additional Options:

  • Tofu
  • Onions
  • Wakame (a seaweed)
  • Hakusai (bok choy or Chinese cabbage)
  • A raw egg (just drop it in when you put in the rest of the ingredients)
  • Matchstick-sliced carrots
  • Matchstick-sliced potatoes

The Tofu and the Onions

This makes for a very basic miso soup, but is still very tasty

This makes for a very basic miso soup, but is still very tasty

Don't Forget Your Standard (and Cheap) Sake!

Really any type of sake will work, as long as it's clear (there are some weird milky looking ones).

Really any type of sake will work, as long as it's clear (there are some weird milky looking ones).

Instructions

Step 1: Put the water, dashi, sake, and soy sauce (ingredients 1-4) into a saucepan and cook on medium-low until it's warm.

Step 2: Add everything else besides the miso and simmer until your potatoes and carrots get tender.

Step 3: Add the onions, wakame, hakusai, and tofu (in that order).

Step 4 (the Most Important): After everything is cooked to your liking (which should only take about 5-8 minutes if you cut the potatoes and carrots thin enough), turn off the heat and add the miso. Be absolutely certain that the water is not near boiling temperature when you add it in. Put the miso on a ladle and dunk it into the soup. Then take a spoon and slowly dissolve the miso by swishing with the ladle and stirring with the spoon. It doesn't have to be perfect, but try to get most of it dissolved.

Dissolving the Miso

You can see the miso in the ladle being dissolved slowly and delectably.

You can see the miso in the ladle being dissolved slowly and delectably.

Summary

What you've hopefully just made is a delicious and undeniably traditional Japanese dish that's healthy, to boot! This recipe is more or less identical to what you'll eat in your average Japanese family's home, and very unlike the weird watery stuff you get at American Japanese restaurants.

My last note is this: It's perfectly okay to get addicted to miso soup.

The Finished Product!

It looked and smelled a lot better than my camera gives it credit for.

It looked and smelled a lot better than my camera gives it credit for.

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