Saturday, September 11, 2010

Feeling A Little Miso

One food I've come to enjoy through being vegan is miso. The blurb from Wikipedia reads,

"Miso (みそ or 味噌?) is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting rice, barley and/or soybeans, with salt and the funguskōjikin (麹菌?), the most typical miso being made with soy. The result is a thick paste used for sauces and spreads, pickling vegetables or meats, and mixing with dashi soup stock to serve as miso soup called misoshiru (味噌汁?), a Japanese culinary staple. High in proteinand rich in vitamins and minerals, miso played an important nutritional role in feudal Japan. Miso is still very widely used in Japan, both in traditional and modern cooking, and has been gaining world-wide interest. Miso is typically salty, but its flavor and aroma depend on various factors in the ingredients and fermentation process. Different varieties of miso have been described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity, and savory, and there is a very wide variety of miso available."

As the seasons transition, and I'm lamenting the loss of summer, I'm delving into miso soup. It is a light, clear soup that you can minimize, with just some chopped spring onions or maximize and add tofu, shiitakes, seaweed, squash, whatever you have in the fridge! Miso is so tremendously good for you, you should eat it often. On days were I'm not feeling grounded or are trying to avoid more processed foods, I will drink the broth for breakfast. It fills me up with salty, warm goodness and I feel great for hours. You can also add it to sauces and gravies as a seasoning.

First, miso typically comes in a plastic refrigerated container. You can find it for super cheap at your local asian market. Our favorite is Lilly Market off Halsey and 112th-ish. You need to keep it refrigerated and it will last forever!
Miso is typically very salty and you will only need a bit at a time. Miso needs to be added to your soup or gravy after the cooking of the other ingredients is complete. This is very important! If you boil the miso, you kill all the good bacteria and stuff that makes it so nutritious.

In making dinner-type soup (seen above) I will typically use........
-Bean Thread Noodles
-Shitake mushrooms (I buy dried ones and rehydrate them prior)
-Summer Squash
-Bok Choy or Spinach
-Seaweed (I enjoy wakame type seaweed; I've tried nori and do not like it)
Most veggies can be used in this soup, look through your drawers and see what's left. It doesn't have to be a traditional japanese-type soup; make it your own!

Add the mushrooms, the onions, garlic, and some oil to a saucepan. Sautee until soft.

Next, add some water to create a soup.

Add the other veggies and the noodles, bring to a boil and then turn it down to simmer for a while. You want all your veggies and the noodles to be soft. (You might want to cook the noodles separately according to the package and then add to the soup, it's up to you)

Most miso soup recipes call for adding the tofu to the boiling mixture, but I love the chewy skin that is created when you fry the tofu, so I cook the tofu separately in a pan with some tamari (soy sauce) and garlic. Then add it to the soup towards the end.

Once the veggies are soft, then you keep the heat low (no boiling!) and add a tablespoon or so of miso. I've learned to dissolve this miso is a small amount of water prior to adding it to to soup. Otherwise you end up with giant chunks of miso undissolved stuck to your bok choy! Cook for about 5 more minutes.

Stir it all together and serve.