I love love love love miso soup, something that is well documented in my posts about spending the summer in Japan. I would actually say eating (or rather drinking, since you never have spoons) miso soup is one of my favorite things about being in Japan--it's included in almost every meal from breakfast through dinner. I've made the freeze-dried stuff that I found at the Asian market but I've never attempted to make miso soup from scratch.
Between the dashi and miso recipes I needed three types of seaweed/flaked fish products. I got my kombu/bonito/wakame at Whole Foods but you could also find it at an Asian market.
Before I could make miso soup, I had to make the base--Dashi (p. 119). I'm going to end up writing a couple hundred words about something that took five minutes to make and only has three ingredients. Dashi is finicky--you can't let it boil and it doesn't freeze. But it is fast!
I soaked a piece of kombu (kelp) in water until it was brought almost to a boil--one of the strangest directions I've ever seen. Almost to a boil? I'm supposed to read the mind of the water?
The kombu did get slimy.
Bonito flakes were added to the pot.
When they started to sink (in about three minutes) I strained everything out and had dashi!
Dashi has a nice lightly flavored taste. Bonito, on the other hand, smells exactly like flakes that you feed fish. In fact, until I sealed it away, I wondered why the kitchen smelled so strongly of fish food. It's not a smell I enjoy.
Miso soup (p. 125) is definitely a recipe I will make again.
I was really excited to use my miso soup bowl that I dragged back from Tokyo (isn't it cute??).
The first step was to soak some wakame (a type of seaweed). TJOC acts like this is optional--I think it would be really strange to have miso soup with no wakame.
It goes from this:
in about ten minutes. Just like those little tablets that expanded into sponges (usually shaped like dinosaurs) when you dumped them in water (usually the bathtub). I loved those sponges.
I cooked a few shiitake mushroom caps with a small leek in a little vegetable oil:
I added the dashi and a little soy sauce and heated it up.
In a small bowl I whisked some red miso with a bit of the dashi:
I added the miso to the pot and poured some into my bowl. I added some wakame and some chopped tofu and voila!
Miso soup! It was absolutely delicious and tasted exactly like all the miso soup I ate in Japan. I loved it. I ate almost all of it by myself, saving one serving for lunch the next day (and it heated up quite nicely). Miso soup is healthy too--the wikipedia page insinuates that the reason you don't let it boil is to retain the nutritional value of the miso, which is interesting.
I don't understand why some people hate tofu so much. I guess I get if you don't like the texture but it really doesn't have much of a taste, it just soaks up whatever it's in. I like it in hot and sour soup and miso soup.