Archive for miso soup

Quick miso tip

Miso soup


Oh, this poor blog. I think about it a lot, but I can’t seem to wriggle in time to post. C’est la vie.

Here’s a quick tip, though, that I thought was worth noting for my own future use, at the very least.

Miso soup is foundational to Japanese cuisine, and we have it nearly everyday. We alternate between white (shiro) and red (aka) miso, usually according to which is on sale. It turns out that adding a small amount of sake—a tablespoon or so—to soup made with aka miso really boosts the taste, making it tangier and richer. I was surprised that such a small addition could make that much of a difference. Definitely recommended.

(Not sure if it works with shiro miso; will report back.)

Red and white miso

Images from Wikimedia Commons with CC BY-SA 3.0 licenses

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Shocking pink tonjiru

Tonjiru with beets #1

We’ve been blessed in our weekly csa basket with beets. It’s amazing how such rough little buggers become so magically sweet and tender. We’ve also frequently used the greens as a substitute for spinach. Very tasty.

Tonjiru is a popular type of miso soup characterized by pork and root vegetables, usually potatoes, carrots, daikon, etc. and onions. It’s definitely one of Yusuke’s favourites.

He decided to put our beet bounty to good use by making tonjiru with a twist. The iteration above includes daikon, carrots, white onions, and of course beets. The pink effect is somewhat startling, but it’s incredibly tasty. He also used chicken instead of pork.

The second batch included carrots and leeks in addition to chicken and beets.

He typically begins the soup by sauteing the onions, followed by the other veggies, before adding water, miso paste, and dashi.

Tonjiru with beets #2

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Miso soup with konnyaku

We ate miso soup with konnyaku, carrots, daikon, white onions, and green onions.

We also had asparagus with balsamic vinegar.

It was good.

That’s all.

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Soy supreme: natto tofu

This dish is waaaay Japanese. Only those who can appreciate soft subtle tastes need apply.

First, Yusuke thinly sliced white onions and soaked them in water to lessen their strong taste. Next, he prepared a sauce with 1 tsp mirin, 1 tbsp soy sauce, a pinch of dashi, and the tiny packet of “mustard” that comes in a package of natto.

He mixed the sauce into natto and then piled it over blocks of silken tofu, which were also topped with the drained raw onions.

Yum, yummy.

Alas, the tofu was firmer than we prefer due to a recent tofu tragedy. We used to buy “president’s choice/ménu bleu” silken tofu, a store brand at Provigo (aka Atlantic Superstore aka Loblaws). But they haven’t had it for weeks and weeks. We even tried another store, but now hope has faded. Sniff. Japanese-style tofu is incredibly hard to come by in this part of the world…

We also had an unusual miso soup with this meal, with green peppers, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes. Yusuke used a bit of chicken broth, salt, and sugar (a tiny bit) instead of dashi powder.

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Shrimp and asparagus goodness

Omm nom nom shrimp.

First, Yusuke defrosted frozen shrimp and soaked them in a beaten eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper. The original recipe that inspired this meal called for egg whites only, as well as katakuriko to make the shrimp crispy when fried, but Yusuke said he was too lazy to do this. (He’s too hard on himself.)

Next, he sautéed sliced white onions and sliced asparagus in a frying pan. [Aside: It seems that it’s asparagus season somewhere: I keep finding beautiful specimens at the grocery store.]

Next into the pan went a healthy dollop of minced ginger and then a “soup” of 3.5-4 cups of chicken stock, a pinch each of sugar, black pepper, and sugar. Finally, he added the shrimp and cooked everything for a while longer. Finally, he reduced the heat and mixed in 1 tbsp of katakuriko.

We also had miso soup with eggplant and green onions. But I suck at photography.

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Miso notes

For inquiring minds, here are a few notes about miso. It is an essential staple of Japanese cuisine, and now of my own diet as well.

Miso soup is made by dissolving miso paste in hot water—roughly 4 tbsp in 5 cups of water. The paste itself is made from fermented soy beans, which are cooked with salt and rice and/or barley. In the grocery store, you can find the paste in a plastic box or bag, and it should be refrigerated after opening. Many general grocery stores stock it. Here in Montreal, we find the best prices at Korean grocery stores, but we occasionally buy it at P.A. on Du Fort.

There are many, many types of miso, with each region of Japan favouring its own traditional miso. But the most typical kind is white miso (shiromiso 白みそ).

The most important thing for beginners to note is that you have to add dashi (fish stock) to make proper miso soup. You can buy miso with the dashi already included, in which case you just dissolve the paste in water and add the veggies, etc. of your choice. The package will be labeled with the word “dashi” in English or in Japanese:  だし入り (dashi iri). We prefer to use miso without dashi, because then you can adjust the taste more easily. Yusuke also frequently uses miso and dashi on their own in other types of dishes.

Miso soup is generally very easy to make, and thus it is a part of nearly every meal that we have. I’ve posted a multitude of miso soups (click for pics!), but here are some of our most common combinations:

  • green onions and egg (Yusuke’s fav)
  • spinach, green onions, and egg
  • silken tofu and wakame (seaweed)
  • mushrooms and bean sprouts, sometimes with green onions or wakame
  • firm tofu and bean sprouts
  • cabbage and yakifu
  • okra (my current fav)
  • carrots, onions, and potatoes…and pork, if you like that sort of thing
  • eggplant
  • asparagus, especially with abura-age

Yusuke sometimes adds powdered chicken stock instead of dashi, just for something different. He also occasionally adds soy milk, especially in combination with a spicy sauce. Really, a good amount of the stuff on our shopping list can go into miso soup.

If you want a really excellent introduction to miso, check out this Just Hungry article. Her “5 days of miso soup” series is linked on the post. Kanako’s Kitchen also has a nice explanation of the soup.

Our current miso of choice

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Veggies with almond dressing



I made this simple veggie dish from a recipe in The Enlightened Kitchen, our shojin ryori cookbook. The book uses carrots and asparagus, but I used green beans instead of the latter. The vegetables are simply boiled and served with a dressing, made by blending together the following:

2 tbsp lime juice (the recipe calls for lemon)
Powdered almonds (the recipe uses walnuts: 60 g, crushed)
2 tsp white miso
2 tsp mirin
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil (the recipe calls for 2)
2 tbsp white wine
2 tbsp rice vinegar

This was a perfect bento, pictured in the adorable box that my mother-in-law gave me.

There was a lot of leftover dressing, so Yusuke used it the next night as a sauce for this mélange of asparagus, carrots, beautiful enoki mushrooms, white onions, and a bit of canned tuna.

Enoki mushrooms make me very happy. We also had them in our miso soup, along with abura-age.

enoki soup

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Shrimp-veggies stir fry-stew


I don’t remember the details of this dish, but I do recall that it was very tasty, so I didn’t want the photo to go to waste. It’s a sorta stir-fry, sorta stew. The body has soy sauce, sake…and the other usual stuff. The veggies, as you can see, are asparagus, bean sprouts, bok choy, carrots, and mushrooms, along with shrimp.


And this is really more of a nice idea than a good photo: miso soup with asparagus and abura-age. Lovely.

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Jun-i encore une fois

Per tradition, here is documentation of our latest Jun-i feast (see previously here, here, and here).

kaiso salad


I opted to start with a tasty kaiso salad. In English, we really only have one word for “seaweed,” which is kind of inadequate. This salad shows the huge variety of plants in this family, with all manner of colour, texture, and taste. I particular like the light green crunchy one on the far right. N.B. the white stuff is thinly sliced daikon (radish). The dressing, which is used sparingly so as not to ruin the unique tastes of the seaweed, was a vinaigrette with ponzu (similar to lemon).

Yusuke went with the wonderful miso soup. So perfect. They make it with enoki mushrooms, tiny cubes of tofu, and sliver of green onions. Fortunately, both the salad and soup were large enough for two to share.

Next came the main course:



Yusuke went with the usual: the chef’s selection of sushi (above). I decided to be creative, though, and select some of my favourites from the sushi menu: tako (octopus), ikura (salmon caviar), salmon sashimi (VERY good organic), and unagi (sweetly barbecued eel). I also tried uni (sea urchin) for the first time. Extremely delectable. The texture, I was surprised to find, is wonderfully creamy. I really like taste of the nori with the ikura and uni, which are known as gunkan sushi due to the “battleship” shape.

On the topic of sushi, I found a nifty web page with sushi tips for people in North American and Europe. The uninitiated should especially check out “Warning signs that you probably won’t get good sushi.” I would add that in many cases, restaurants with “fuji” in the name (e.g., Fujiyama) are not likely to be authentic. Although written by a gaijin, Yusuke verified that the advice is accurate (despite some strange choices in romaji/transliteration).

Anyway, back to Jun-i: last was dessert. I was too stuffed to have my own, but I tasted Yusuke’s selection of a modified tiramisu with matcha (green tea) powder. Ooomm.


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Spicy miso-peanut soup



Soup base:
2 tsp chicken bouillon powder
1 tbsp white miso paste
2 tbsp peanut butter
1+ tbsp tobanjan (spicy bean) sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 quarts (ish) hot water

1/2 of a 454 gram block of firm tofu, cubed
Fresh bean sprouts

Begin by boiling the tofu in water. Lower the temperature and dissolve each of the soup base ingredients in succession. Add the bean sprouts last (final cooking time varies according to desired crunchiness level). Serve hot!

The picture makes it look kinda bland, but this soup is very rich and VERY spicy. It paired perfectly with the simple roasted asparagus dish in my last post.

Depending on the amount of tobanjan used, plain rice on the side is also highly recommended.

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