Before I even came to Japan, I loved miso soup and sushi. Miso soup is simple, elegant, warming on a cold day, and delicious. When I got here, I quickly learned to make sushi (there's not much to it really), but I just now got around to learning to make miso soup. In case any of you are fellow lovers of miso soup, I've decided to share the recipe I used from Recipes of Japanese Cooking.
First, make the stock (makes about 3 1/4 cups):
15-20 niboshi, or small dried sardines
3 1/2 c. cold water
1. Pluck off the heads and pinch away the entrails of the dried fish. (Doing this is not as bad as it sounds)
2. Fill a bowl with cold water and add the fish. Let stand for about 30 min.
3. Transfer the liquid and fish into a pot and place over medium heat. When the liquid begins to boil, turn down the heat to low immediately. Skim any foam off the surface.
4. After simmering over low heat for 5-10 minutes, strain the stock into a bowl through a paper towel placed in a mesh sieve.
Second, make the soup (serves 2):
1/2 cake of silken tofu cut into small cubes
2/3 oz. wakame seaweed reconstituted (let about 2 pinches of the dried stuff sit in cold water for about 30 min)
about an inch of naga-negi onion (if you can't find it, use green onion), sliced
1 2/3 c. stock
2 tbsp. miso
1. Cut the seaweed into bite-sized pieces if necessary.
2. Pour stock into a pan, and bring to a boil over medium heat.
3. Add tofu and seaweed and remove from the heat before it comes to a boil again.
4. Gradually add the miso using a ladle with a little stock in it to soften the miso, and then let it dissolve into the soup.
5. Top with the onions, ladle into bowls, and serve.
Suggested variations of miso soup ingredients (instead of wakame and tofu):
1. freshwater clams
2. tofu (cut into large squares) and shiitake mushrooms (sliced)
3. potato (cut into rounds) and wakame seaweed
4. spinach and deep-fried tofu (cut into strips)
5. tofu (cut into strips) and nameko mushroom
6. turnip (wedges) and deep-fried tofu (strips)
7. eggplant (half moons), tofu (squares), and deep-fried tofu (strips)
8. cabbage (squares) and deep-fried tofu (strips)