Disclaimer: I have never been to Japan. I make no claim on knowing anything about the ins and outs of authentic miso soup. But I do know how to make a darn tasty noodle bowl.
Miso is an ingredient, like fish sauce, that opens doors to whole new recipe universes. Miso is made of fermented soy beans and imparts a salty umami flavor. It adds deep flavor in a flash, giving the lovely false impression that you’ve been slaving over a hot stove for hours.
Like beer, the color of the miso is an indication of how rich and deep the flavor is. The lighter white and yellow miso are best for soups, dressings and sauces while the darker red miso is amazing for things like short rib braises. I tend to use the lighter miso to deepen the flavor of veggies, boost marinades and most often, as the base of a quick noodle soup.
Lately I have been into shirataki noodles. They are sold either in the chilled section (near the tofu) or in the aisle in bags near the dried Asian noodles. Supposedly the shirataki noodles made with yam flour have zero calories. Yes, you heard me. ZERO. The ones made with tofu have maybe 20. Regardless, you can get your noodle fix and still stay low-carb or whatnot. The texture is little like rice noodles, so they tend to work best with Asian recipes. And don’t forget to rinse them – they have a bit of a funk straight out of the bag.
Buckwheat soba noodles are another great option to keep on hand for noodle soups. They have a nice nutty flavor and the texture works really well in a soup. I typically cook these in their own pot for about 6 minutes, then add to individual bowls for serving.
Miso Soup Base
I’m going to share a simple miso soup base that I build up into all sorts of meals. The best part? It has 3 ingredients:
- Chicken, vegetable broth, or water - about 1.5 cups / 350 mL per serving
- Miso paste (I usually use white or golden miso) – 1 Tbs per serving
- A hunk of peeled ginger, sliced
Throw broth and ginger into a saucepan and bring to a boil, then turn down heat and add miso. Keep at a low simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Then cook your fixings in the simmering broth and you’ve got a totally satisfying meal ready to go.
Long cooking veggies: Sliced mushrooms and/or zucchini. Add during the final 5 minutes.
Protein: Tofu cubes, raw shrimp or thinly sliced chicken, beef or pork. To get a really thin slice on the meat, put it in the freezer for 20 minutes before slicing. It will cook in less than 2 minutes.
Cooked noodles and quick cooking veggies like spinach, baby bok choy, kale or other leafy greens. They should wilt in about a minute. I cook the noodles separately so I can box up any leftovers separately. Otherwise the noodles turn to ick.
LAST, finish with:
A drizzle of soy sauce, Sriracha or chili-garlic paste, sliced green onions, and/or chopped cilantro, after you've turned off the heat.
20 minutes from start to finish, and maybe some leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Can't go wrong with this one!