Yesterday I went to a friends house and was surprised that she served miso soup with fresh ginger. Being a fan of all things ginger, I searched around on the internet both in Japanese and English for similar recipes. Although it wasn’t one of the most popular ingredients when it comes to miso soup, there seemed to be quite a few fans out there that liked it most during the wintertime to warm up. Seemed like a logical combination but I guess it just never crossed my mind to try it out.
It’s little discoveries like these that make miso soup exciting. A soup that seems so simple and straight forward has so much potential.
Miso soup is a staple menu in Japanese restaurant’s worldwide but I always feel that there is something lacking in them. Yes there are restaurants that get it right of course, but often times it just tastes like hot water with just miso and no depth. But I think what makes them less exciting is that there is not much variety when it comes to the actual ingredients inside the miso soup. It’s always tiny pieces of tofu, wakame seaweed, and maybe some green onions.
But don’t get me wrong, having tofu and wakame is not the problem. It’s the most basic yet most popular ingredient for miso soup. It’s just that even if you are just making this basic miso soup, I feel like not many people realize there is still a lot of room for creativity. You can just start from using different types of tofu. Of course you can choose between the basic hard or soft tofu but different brands have different flavors, especially fresh tofu, so it’s best to try all of them out. You can also cut the tofu into small pieces or large depending on what you put in with the tofu. There is also of course the option of using different dashi soup stock.
I suppose its best to make your own dashi from scratch but for everyday miso soup I use an ago flying fish dashi packet that looks like a tea bag because I personally like the more nuanced flavors that come from this dashi than when I use the popular Ajinomoto Hondashi. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a pretty good miso soup with Hondashi so I don’t want people to knock it since it is the most accessible instant dashi out there. I think the key is to make sure that the flavors from your ingredients become part of the broth, adding more depth. That’s where the ingredients play a big role in making the flavor in your miso soup unique.
Besides tofu, I like potatoes in my miso soup with wakame but my husband is more of a daikon radish or taro fan which makes the soup base sweeter. Onions and cabbage are also options that make the soup base sweeter. An alternative to normal tofu would be fried tofu which is less oily than it sounds so it is one of my favorites. There are also all sorts of mushrooms in Japan so whichever one is the cheapest on that day usually ends up in our miso soups.
The tonjiru pork base miso soup that is part of the Nagomi Kitchen Japanese basic cooking class menu, although the dish has it’s own name, it really is a variation of miso soup. Since tonjiru has a lot of ingredients in it, we’re hoping it will help people to taste how all these ingredients blend with the miso, to get a sense of the potential miso soup has beyond your normal tofu, wakame, and green onion combination.
Even after you’ve done making the miso soup, there is also the option of putting a dash of shichimi chilli pepper just before you eat if you’re a fan of spice like me. So as you can tell, the combinations are endless so next time you are craving some miso soup, try these options out to break away from your normal miso soup cycle. Or if you are planning on joining us at Nagomi Kitchen, feel free to ask us questions because that's what we're here for!