One of Queenie’s favorite breakfasts is miso soup. Given that we now live in the Pacific Northwest, where the mornings will have more of a chill in the air than we’re used to, I suspect that miso soup will be making even more frequent appearances in our breakfast rotation.
There are innumerable ways to make miso soup, limited only by your imagination and what you happen to have on hand. They can range from the simplest broth with a couple of scallions floating on top, to something quite chunky and complex. We rotate ours based on what’s in season and what we’re in the mood for. If you’re new to the world of miso soup, one of the books I’ve already mentioned, Love Sanae by Sanae Suzuki, has some wonderful tips for getting started, as well as a different miso soup recipe for each season.
The miso soup I’m making here is pretty typical Queenie fare, basic but satisfying.
To get started, place some wakame flakes (the most common sea vegetable used in miso soup) in water and get the heat going.
Those little flakes expand like crazy, so be warned. Queenie happens to love them, but if you’re not so sure, go easy the first time. If you were going to add onion (other than scallions, which tend to be added at the very end), now would be a good time, as it’s nice to let it simmer quite a bit and soften both in texture and flavor.
For this batch, the only other things I added were some tofu cubes, some chopped bok choy and, of course, miso.
Once the water is hot and your wakame has performed its magic and tripled in size, add the tofu cubes and let them heat up, too. Because bok choy is a delicate green, I only popped it in at the very end, simmering it just long enough to gently soften the white ends (you want them crisp-tender, not squishy, so don’t overdo it) and make the green parts an even brighter green. If you’re using a more fibrous green, such as kale or chard, it will need a bit more time.
Now you’re ready to add the miso, and here’s where I have two tips for you:
1. You should never add miso to boiling water, so take your soup off the heat and let it calm down for a moment before moving on. Miso is full of all sorts of beneficial bacteria, and boiling water kills them. No reason to do that.
2. Don’t just plop your miso into the pot. Even with diligent stirring, you are likely to end up with little chunks of miso hiding in your soup, which leads to salt blasts in your mouth. To avoid this, mix your miso and water in a separate container of some kind and then incorporate it into the soup. There is something called a suribachi, which is basically a Japanese mortar and pestle, and it’s perfect for this task, having been designed to perform it (among other things). However, no special equipment is required. You can simply use a small soup bowl. Just put your miso in whatever container you have, then add a few tablespoons of the hot water from your pot to it. Mix until your miso is smooth, and then fold that liquified miso back into the pot. Voila. A perfect bowl of miso soup!