Miso soup (miso-shiru) is a good source of proteins and an excellent nutritional supplement for rice. It is made from fish stock, dashi, to which miso paste is added. Light, dark, and red miso can all be used.
A variety of things can be added to miso soup to make it more filling. For example, seaweed such as konbu and wakame, shiitake mushrooms, spring onions, small pieces of fish, and shellfish are all suitable. I often use the trimmings left over from slicing fish for sushi and sashimi. Dried seaweed and mushrooms must be soaked before being added to the soup.
The rule for miso soup is the same as that for clear broth: less is more. Not too many items should be added to it, nor should they be too varied – a single item, or possibly a few, of which some float on top and break its smooth surface. Just before serving, a few rings of spring onion can be added as decoration.
Miso soup is served in, and drunk from, a bowl that has a dark exterior and usually a red or black interior. Larger solid pieces in the soup are fished out and eaten with chopsticks. The dark colour of the bowl accentuates the miso paste, which is suspended in the soup.
How to make a simple miso soup
To make 1 litre of soup, use ca. 1 litre (4 cups) of dashi and 30 millilitres (2 tablespoons) miso paste. If you make your own dashi, you will most probably use the second dashi for miso soup. As miso paste must not boil, it is stirred in at the end. Other ingredients are added in accordance with their cooking time. Some mushrooms and vegetables require a fair bit of cooking, whereas pieces of fish and tofu merely need to be warmed through. Mix the miso paste with a little tepid water and add it to the soup. Stir well and bring the whole to just below the boiling point. Serve immediately.