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Zox Kitchen

Zox Kitchen: May 15, 2014

Miso, The Japanese Chicken Soup

Today we are traveling to the Pacific Rim to explore the cuisine of Japan as expressed by that popular broth called miso soup. For many Miso is considered almost a cure-all in that it is so good for you not unlike the American notion about chicken soup. Miso is the dish that comes to us in a small bowl at the beginning of our meal served at our favorite sushi or sashimi cafe in Los Angeles, Chicago or New York, among many other communities.

Miso is a simple, low-fat, highly appreciated food that the Japanese have enjoyed for centuries, as do Americans today. In the past we would go to our favorite sushi bar. Today we can enjoy miso at home. Found at most grocery stores there is more than one variety of miso such as yellow, white or red miso. It has become as common to our diet as a bowl of Cheerios, yet may be even better for us. We slurp up a small bowl of miso with boiled water and some fresh vegetables and we are off to the races. What is miso and is there more than one way of enjoying it? Miso is a traditional Japanese soup consisting of a stock called dashi into which you add miso paste. Americans tend to add either red or white miso to vegetable stock. The Japanese traditi;6onally create a stock from dried baby sardines, kombu, which is dried kelp, and thin shavings of dried and smoked bonito or skipjack tuna, and dried shitake.

Miso is said to be good for us even though it’s high in sodium. Researchers at Japan’s National Cancer Centre have suggested that “eating three or more bowls of the Japanese delicacy miso soup every day could cut women’s risk of developing breast cancer.” It’s an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, and a good source of minerals and amino acids.

On a visit to Hawaii a few years ago, I had a large bowl of miso for lunch, rather than a small one, with several different kinds of fresh fish that had been poached with different vegetables along with red miso paste. Perhaps the large numbers of Japanese and Okinawans who remained in Hawaii after World War II help explain this habit of eating the soup differently than Americans stateside. It was delicious nonetheless and reminded me of other Asian soups served in a similar fashion such as Vietnamese Pho and Thai soup in coconut milk.

Miso Soup With Fresh Seafood, Silken Tofu, Shitake And Greens

Serves 4-6

Here’s a version of miso that reminds me of that Hawaiian soup and the palm trees of yesterday. Making it yourself makes it especially tasty.

Ingredients

• 4 cups of water

• 1 1/2 tsp dashi granules (Available online from Amazon or in a Japanese or Asian grocery)

• 1 lb silken tofu block, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

• 4 stalks of scallions trimmed and cut on the diagonal

• 1/2 lb baby spinach, steamed

• 4 tbsp red miso paste, awase mixture

• 1/2 lb halibut or hake, cut into 3 x 2 inch pieces, steam in the dashi

• 1/2 lb shitake mushrooms

Directions

1. In a medium large pot — 4-6 quart size — Add the dashi to boiling water and bring to a simmer.

2. Add the miso to the warm but not boiling water and mix until dissolved — a whisk may work well here. Be sure the water is only simmering. Otherwise the healthy probiotics of the miso will lose their healthy side effects and the broth may become grainy.

3. Next add the halibut strips to the pot and leave to simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Then add the spinach, mushrooms and scallions to the simmering pot of water along with the tofu until warm — 2-3 minutes.

5. Finally add the halibut strips to the water and cover while simmering. Turn the heat off and cover for 5 minutes.

Please send comments, questions or observations of interest to Chef Alan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it