Ah, miso soup.
Often disregarded as just that free bowl of soup you get at Japanese restaurants, miso soup (味噌汁）is actually a classic, traditional Japanese dish.
It is a staple of the Japanese diet, and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
This delicious, under appreciated soup is also healthy, and simple to make. It only requires two essential ingredients, plus whatever else you decide to throw in. There are a thousand and one variations of miso soup, but let’s just make the most classic version first — tofu and seaweed (豆腐とわかめみそ汁).
Tofu and Seaweed Miso Soup Recipe (豆腐とわかめみそ汁)
Servings: 4 bowls of soup
- miso paste (whatever type you want): 3 or 4 tablespoons (45-60mL)
- dashi (whatever type you want): 800mL – 1L
- tofu – 1 block
- wakame (dried seaweed) – a couple tablespoons
- green onion
- Any other vegetables of your choice (cabbage, carrots, daikon, mushroom etc.)
- a pot
- a spoon
- a bowl
- large soup ladle (makes things a lot easier)
- Knife and cutting board (for cutting tofu, and other vegetables if using)
Luxury to have:
Bring dashi to boil in pot. Turn off heat. Mix in miso paste. Add in wakame and tofu. Heat up again. Turn off heat before soup begins to boil. Top with green onions. Eat!
There’s not much more to it, but let’s look at each step in a bit more detail.
Step 1: Prep ingredients
Time to use some of those knife skills and cutting techniques!
- Cut the tofu block into approximately 1-2cm cubes (i.e. kaku-giri 角切り / sainome-kiri さいの目切り).
- Cut wakame into bite sized pieces (most will come pre-cut). You may also choose to hydrate the dried wakame beforehand, although I usually just put it directly in the soup to hydrate.
- If you are using green onions, cut up as thinly as you are able to (i.e. usui-giri 薄い切り).
If you are adding any other vegetables, you should cut them up now also.
Notes: The traditional way to cut tofu for miso soup is by holding it in your hand and cutting just before you put it into the pot (Step 5). Why? I’m not really sure. Maybe so that no small bits are wasted. Or, so that you do not need to wash the cutting board?
Another option is to just rip the tofu into pieces with your hands for a more rustic feeling 🙂
Step 2: Dashi
Put your dashi in a pot and turn heat on high.
If you don’t have any dashi, you will need to make some on your own. The easiest way is to use dashi packs, or instant dashi powder. If you are using dashi powder, follow the instructions on the package for how much you should add. Usually it’s about 10g to 4-5 cups of water (800ml – 1L).
Step 3: Add vegetables (optional)
If you are adding other vegetables, put them into the pot of dashi now.
For harder root vegetables that take longer to cook (e.g. carrots, daikon, potatoes, etc.), put them in while the dashi is still cold, so that they will cook through fully. After the dashi starts boiling, add in softer vegetables like mushrooms, lettuce, etc.
Step 4: Stir in the miso
Once the vegetables are all cooked through, turn off the heat. If you are on an electric stove, you may need to take the pot completely off the stove so it stops bubbling.
Put the miso paste in a ladle, let some of the dashi stock seep into the ladle, then mix the miso with your chopsticks until it is fully dissolved into the liquid. Once fully dissolved, dump the mixture back into the pot and stir together.
If you don’t have a ladle, put the miso into a small bowl, then pour some of the dashi into the bowl, and mix until the miso is dissolved. Then, dump the mixture back into the pot and stir everything together.
Or, you could also use a small colander or strainer specifically designed for mixing in miso.
IMPORTANT! The most important thing to remember is to not add the miso while the dashi is still boiling/bubbling. Heating miso too strongly will damage its flavor and aroma; as well as remove its natural nutrients.
Step 5: Add tofu and wakame
Add in the tofu and wakame you prepared from Step 1, and turn the stove back on to medium-high to reheat the soup.
When tiny bubbles appear on the edge of the soup, turn off the heat. As in Step 4, it is important not to let the soup fully boil in order to preserve the delicate taste of the miso.
Tofu and wakame could also technically be added in before adding miso (but after other vegetables are cooked through). Both of these ingredients only need to be warmed, so they do not need to be boiled hard. Tofu is also very delicate, so if boiled too hard it will break apart.
Step 6: Top with green onion, and enjoy 🙂
Put miso soup in a bowl, sprinkle on some finely sliced green onion if you want, and you’re done! Enjoy 🙂
Notes and other interesting stuff:
Miso to dashi ratio
- The ratio of miso to dashi depends on how salty tasting you want your soup. Typically, it is approximately a tablespoon (15-18mL) of miso for every cup (150mL – 200mL) of dashi. Different miso/dashi will have different levels of saltiness, so you will need to adjust to suit your own taste.
Miso Soup – Vegan / Vegetarian
- If you want to make miso soup vegan or vegetarian, all you need to do is make sure your dashi is not made with any fish or meat. A basic konbu or shittake dashi would work well.
- If you are using meats or seafood, you technically don’t need dashi first, as the ingredients will give create its own broth.
- Some miso also comes with dashi in it already. The downside here is you can’t control the ratio.
No knife tofu
- Try ripping the tofu into pieces by hand. It will give your miso soup a more “rustic” feeling.
Miso soup health benefits
- Miso soup is very healthy — mainly because of the miso used. It is full of vitamins, nutrients, as well as probiotics that help your digestion. There have been studies that show miso may reduce cancer, lower cholesterol, and even strengthen your immune system! (Source)
- There are infinite variations of miso soup you can make based on ingredients added, types of miso used, or types of dashi used. You can even try mixing two different types of miso together. You can also add meat, seafood, or other spices to your liking. The only limit is your imagination 🙂
- Over 80% of Japan’s annual production of miso is used in miso soup, and 75% of all Japanese people consume miso soup at least once per day! (via Wikipedia)
Awesome! Now, you can make your very own authentic Japanese miso soup from scratch. It really is only two ingredients (miso and dashi) — plus whatever else you may decide to add. Try to get creative with the variations, or just throw in whatever vegetables you have left in your fridge.
Just remember the most important thing is to not boil the soup while (or after) adding miso paste. This includes when reheating!
What do you think of miso soup? Let me know in the comments 🙂