Miso Soup

Miso Soup

味噌汁(みそしる/Misoshiru) is a traditional Japanese soup. It is made with 出汁(だし/dashi – stock) with a small amount of 具(ぐ/gu – solid ingrediants) and flavoured with a paste called 味噌(みそ/miso).

Miso is basically fermented soybeans with salt but often rice is added. In the western region, sometimes, barley is added instead of rice. The degree of fermentation shows in colour: the darker the more fermented and with a stronger flavour.
When you go to a Japanese supermarket, miso is often divided into 4 groups:
赤みそ(あかみそ/aka miso – red miso),
白みそ(しろみそ/shiro miso – white miso,
八丁みそ(はっちょうみそ/hacchou miso)and
合わせみそ(あわせみそ/awase miso – blended miso).
Aka-miso and Shiro-miso usually contain rice and Aka-miso has a stronger flavour as it is more fermented. Shiro-miso is a lot sweeter than other types of miso and is often used for marinating fish and/or making a Japanese style (salad) dressings. Haccho-miso comes from the Hacchou area in Okazaki City near Nagoya. It is very dark in colour and made of soybeans only and flavour is very intense. I love it but if you are new to miso, you may find it a bit too strong. Awase-miso is, as the name suggests, a blend of different type misos.
You can put almost any vegetable as 具(ぐ/gu – solid ingredients) in miso soup. Most common vegetable used are daikon radish, Chinese cabbage and spring onions. Wakame seaweed is also very common. Sometimes you can put more than 1 kind of gu such as potate and wakame, tofu (soybean curd) and spring onion, etc.
It is usually served in a lacquered bowl called お椀(おわん/owan) and you drink it from the bowl – in a proper Japanese restaurant, you won’t get a spoon for it.
Up until my grandparents’ generation, everybody in Japan ate rice and miso soup 3 times a day everyday but that is not the case any more. Some families do not make their miso soup at all at home. Instant miso soup packs are readily available and they do taste good. Once my younger sister (she was very young then) said she preferred an instant soup to our mother’s miso soup. Oh, she was upset!

They say miso soup has a lot of health benefits as it is a fermented food. Try one if you have never had it!

By the way, another name of miso soup is おみおつけ (omiotsuke). it’s written 御御御付 in Kanji – it took me a while to work out what it was when I first saw it that way!

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