Miso soup with shimeji mushrooms, fried tofu, and green onion
After talking at length about dashi the other day, the next logical topic is obviously miso soup. I admit that I’m sometimes not as creative with my miso soups as I could be. Ideally the vegetables and other ingredients included in the miso soup served with a traditional Japanese meal will compliment the meal’s side dishes, providing contrast and additional nutrients. When I’m making our weekly meal plan I usually write down ideas for the miso soup to serve with each meal, but more often than not once I’m in the kitchen I abandon this plan entirely and just use whatever happens to be at hand. There’s always a partial block of tofu left over from something, some pre-cut konegi (scallions) to throw in, or a couple of orphan mushrooms that didn’t get used for whatever reason.
Yet with a little planning miso soup is a fantastic way to showcase the fresh ingredients of the season. Here is a recipe for one autumn-inspired miso soup as well as a handful of suggestions for other combinations. These days shimeji mushrooms are available pretty much all year round, but they are originally an autumn food and I find them particularly satisfying in this season when neither light, watery vegetables (snow peas, tomatoes, myōga) or heavy root vegetables (daikon radish, potatoes, turnips) quite hit the spot.
For this recipe I used akadashi (red) miso from Sano Miso. As for American brands, I’ve had pretty good luck with the American Miso Company’s red miso. This recipe calls for negi, which are a type of long onion that are sometimes called leeks or Welsh onions in English. Pretty much any kind of green onion can be substituted depending on what is available.
Since this is the first miso recipe I’m posting, let me state that although I usually recommend one teaspoon of miso paste per serving I never measure miso since the amount I end up using varies according to color, brand, and even how old it is. It’s a good idea to start with way less miso than you think you need and continue adding it until you achieve a good flavor that isn’t overly salty. If you’re using a miso koshi (miso strainer) it’s easy to either strain out the bits of soybeans and other chunks in the miso paste, or you can incorporate them into the soup by pushing them through the strainer to break them apart. If you do this, however, be aware that the soup will taste stronger than if you strained out the solid bits.
Miso soup with shimeji mushrooms, fried tofu, and green onion (shimeji, abura-age, negi no miso shiru)
Shimeji mushrooms are available in the U.S. these days and they’re definitely worth tracking down. If you can’t find abura-age (thinly sliced fried tofu) you can theoretically try making it yourself but I would probably just substitute with some other kind of tofu or just add another vegetable of your choice.
Dashi 2 cups
Abura-age 2 pieces
Shimeji 1 package (100 grams)
Negi (leek) or green onion 5-7 inch piece
Akadashi (red) miso 2 tsp
- Remove extra oil clinging to the abura-age (or other type of fried tofu) by blanching it briefly in boiling water. Discard this water and cut the tofu into narrow rectangles approximately .5 cm wide by 2 cm long.
- Cut off the base of the shimeji, then pull apart with your hands.
- Cut the negi or green onion in thin slices on an angle.
- Heat up the pot you are going to be using to cook the miso soup, then add the abura-age. If you are using a non-stick pan, no extra oil is necessary since the fried tofu will still have some oil on its surface. With a cast iron pan it’s a good idea to add just a bit of vegetable or sesame oil. After dry roasting it at medium-high heat for about a minute, add the shimeji mushrooms. Continue stirring for a few minutes – the goal is to cook the mushrooms, but not to brown them.
- Add the dashi. After it boils, turn the heat down to a high simmer and skim off any aku (scum) that rises to the surface (mushrooms produce a lot of whitish foam that doesn’t taste very good).
- Once no more scum is present, turn the heat way down and add the miso either by placing it in a miso koshi directly in the pot or by putting about 1/2 cup of the dashi in a small cup, adding the miso, and stirring into a smooth paste. Return the paste to the pot and incorporate. Taste and add more miso if desired.
Some other ideas for autumn miso soups
This is a good way to use sweet potato left over from other dishes. In my opinion, it pairs really well with wakame (a type of sea vegetable) and a darker miso.
- Shiitake, spinach, and tofu
I like to thinly slice the shiitake and cook the spinach separately before adding it to the dashi to avoid having green scum in my soup.
- Carrot and burdock
Cut the carrot and gobō (burdock root) into thin slices before adding to the dashi. This is good with a sprinkle of shichimi tōgarashi (a blend of seven different spices including chili pepper).