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Japanese Miso Shiru or Miso Soup

Miso shiru is a simple soup made from clear dashi, or fish or kelp broth, and a little miso paste. As there are many different varieties of miso paste, the resulting miso soup will take on the characteristics of the miso paste used. Usually, miso soup is made with a lighter miso paste but families tended to use whatever they produced themselves or what was regionally available. Like anything else you cook, your miso soup should be pleasing to your own taste so experiment with the amount of miso paste.

Because it tends to have an intense flavor, start with a little miso, adding one tablespoon at a time. Just remember not to let the miso shiru boil after the miso has been added.

Classic Miso Shiru

4 cups dashi*
4 Tbsp. miso paste (your choice, but I prefer shiro miso for its light taste)
green scallion tops, thinly sliced
soft silken tofu, cut into small cubes

In a small pot, heat the dashi gently. Allow it to come to a light simmer; do not boil. Add tofu cubes and bring it back to a simmer. Turn off heat. In a small dish, mix together miso paste with some of the hot dashi until dissolved; then return this mixture to the pot. Stir gently, being careful not to break up the tofu cubes. Do not boil miso soup. Ladle into chawan or small soup dishes. Scatter each with green scallions or dried tofu shaped like flowers.

Although this is the basic, traditional version of miso shiru, many families vary this soup, depending on what foods and types of miso paste are on hand. You can change it up by using different types of miso paste and/or adding various vegetables like daikon radish or greens. Just be sure to add the vegetables or seafood to allow the additions to cook before you add the miso. You do not want the miso soup to boil.

Consider adding just a little of one or two of the following but do not add too many or your miso soup will be more of a vegetable stew. Remember that with Japanese food, the simplicity is part of its beauty.

*mushrooms (enoki, shiitake, straw)
*squash slices
*daikon radish slices
*noodles (udon or yam noodles)
*spinach, mizuna or other greens
*konnyaku slices
*kamaboko slices (steamed fish cake)
*Rincon (lotus root)
*bamboo shoots
*seafood like clams, bay shrimp or scallops
*konbu (kelp) knots

*Note: the type of dashi used will affect the overall flavor of the miso shiru. I enjoy a dashi made from a combination of kombu and katsuobushi. Please see the links for dashi recipes.

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