Sunday, February 7, 2010

Broadening Horizon.... Miso Soup

I love sushi and don't eat enough of them. I used to purchase rolls (yep, I don't make them!) to share with my daughter when she was younger but she was never a big fan of seaweed. I therefore stopped buying them; I only treat myself (my husband likes them but not as much as I do) for special occasions. One thing I enjoyed when going for sushi was having a Miso soup. But then again, it tastes like the Miso soup you pay $$ for is processed. In other words, I could purchase the same (if not better) at a local supermarket and make my own for less money. So, I stopped ordering Miso soup when going for sushi. Then, reading La Fuji Mama blog on Miso soup totally changed my perspective.
All of a sudden, Rachael made me realize that I could indeed make my own Miso soup. And that it was not that difficult. I trusted her (the same way I hope you trust me when I write that my daily cooking is not that difficult at all!) and decided to take her up on the challenge to make Miso soup this week.
First, it meant getting the proper ingredients. And since my Japanese is, to say the least, non-existent, I did something I generally don't do that is: a grocery list. Well, I really just put down on a piece of shredded children-drawing-recycled paper the few ingredients I needed to purchase to make dashi (broth) and then the soup itself. With it in hand (and all the other more common things I needed on my head-list), I headed for the supermarket. I found all the dry ingredients and the tofu but could not find the MAIN ingredient, ie Miso. Since I could not find Miso, I decided to take a trip to another supermarket that could carry all the ingredients. Un autre jour! No big deal! Except that that other day was Friday and that we were bound for a heavy snow storm in the city (the second one this year). While it may sound "light" snow compared to what Canada or some other states in the US can get, Philadelphians were getting ready stressed. 
In other words, they were all grocery shopping. As if they had to stock for weeks. It was really crazy. On top of that a lot of things happened to me that same day. I lost my Japanese ingredients list (so much for making lists!!)!!!!! Fortunately, I vaguely remembered the three main ingredients I was supposed to get: kombu, katsuobuchi, wakame, tofu and miso. It also happened that I forgot my purse at music class, which means that I had to give up my spot in the supermarket line to get my purse back and then to stand in line again. All of that with a two-year-old in a stroller...  Anyway, we made it home with all the ingredients... and since the weather was really bad on Saturday, I made Miso soup.

The process is easy (I followed Rachael's recipe for dashi and then used wakame, edamame, and tofu for the soup). The results was good. I am sure that Rachael's tastes much better but for a first experience at home, I was quite happy with myself.  Then it came to feeding it to my family! It was not a great success. Sadly. My husband, who I can say, has a much narrower palate than mine, never had Miso soup before. He does not like tofu (well, I don't think he has had good tofu ever). He did say that it was "good" but definitively not something he would crave for. As for my daughter, she ate a few spoons so as to try. But that was it. My son was already down for his nap so he did not eat Miso soup! Since I have plenty of Miso left, I'll make myself more Miso soups in the coming weeks. Super!
As I was explaining to my husband what ingredients were in the Miso soup he just had, I looked more closely at the Katsuobushi packaging and discovered ....a recipe for French Onion Soup! Well, an Asia version of soupe à l'oignon! That made us laugh!  Comme quoi, everything is cultural when it comes to cooking, n'est-ce-pas?

This whole experience made me want to try to open up my family horizon when it comes to food : Indian, Chinese, Japanese, African, etc. This is my new personal challenge for the coming months. Cooking something different from what my family is used to at least twice a month... It will give us a chance to talk about other countries, other people... and to taste new things! Any good food blog/cook book you recommend?

One of the first challenges is to find a good recipe to feed tofu to my family. I will ask my friend Minh from Hodo Soy Beanery  for help when it comes to tofu! He made me taste some of his tofu a few years ago when they were starting their company and that was an eye-opening experience. And since then, I do believe that tofu can be something different from this bland and spongy stuff....I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I think that we could all invest a little bit of time to expose our children to other types of food. It does not have to be fancy:  you could well start with a vegetable or cheese that you have never purchased... (but please, no offense, but if you want a French recipe for French onion soup, come back to me, right?) So, next time you go grocery shopping, challenge yourself! Bon Appétit!

Ingredients (recipes from La Fuji Mama) 
For the dashi (stock):
- 4 cups (1 liter ) water
- 3 pieces/sprigs Kombu
- 1/2 cup loosely packed katsuobushi (bonito flakes)

For the soup:
- 3 1/2 cups (875 ml) dashi
- 3 Tbs miso
- a few sprigs/pieces dry wakame, cut into small pieces and soaked in cold water for 5 minutes
- 1/2 cup edamame
- Tofu (cut into small cubes)
  • Soak kombu in cold water for 15 minutes
  • Put water over medium heat. Just before boiling, remove from heat and drop the bonito flakes.
  • Start soaking wakame in cold water
  • After 3-4 minutes, strain the stock over a strainer covered with a coffee filter
  • Bring 3 1/2 cups stock to a boil. 
  • Take 1/2 cup of the stock and pour it over the miso and whisk so as to dilute the miso.
  • Add wakame and edamame to the stock and simmer for 1-2 minutes
  • Add miso  and tofu and reheat (but do not boil). Serve immediately
My Personal Comments:
  • If you want to read about different types of miso, go to Rachel's webpage.
  • You could add white fish, scallions, green onions, mushrooms to your Miso instead of tofu and wakame. I used edamame because that's what I had at home (you can't see it on the picture because they drowned!)


  1. Gaelle,
    Sounds like an adventure of epic miso soup proportion, strollering a two-year old in the snow and a misplaced purse.

    I am sure the soup was fantastic Gaelle!

    Your kids and husband are typical customers of Hodo Soy Beanery. People who haven't had experience with tofu, and are introduced to tofu improperly.

    As you said, tofu has its own flavor. The trick is to find good tofu. Unfortunately, I don't know where you would find it in you part of the country.

    So, my suggestion is to go to an Asian market, preferally Japanese, and as the owners what type/brand of tofu they eat. Whatever brand they suggest, buy it, in the "medium" texture.

    When you open the container, rinse the tofu thoroughly before use. Pat it dry, crumble it in a scramble with grill onions and eggs; a tofu scramble essentially, with a decent amount of butter that any French person would love; garnish with salt and pepper to taste.

    Start with the tofu scramble and let me know how it goes with the family. You can also check out the Hodo Soy Beanery blog for more recipe ideas.

    Looking forward to more tofu recipes/stories from you!

  2. Your soup looks delicious! Great job:)

    I tried once to make miso soup at home but I was not as successful as you are.