There is something innately soothing about a bowl of miso soup. I have always been fascinated by the umami taste, and yet prior to this week, I had never cooked with miso. Honestly, I didn’t even know what miso looked like or where to buy it.
As someone who usually cooks in the Italian style, Japanese food has always been a tad intimidating. A drastic sushi-making experience in college certainly didn’t ease my discomfort with cooking Asian dishes, but inspired by some of the beautiful Miso soup dishes popping up on my instagram feed from My New Roots and Candice Kumai, I set out to overcome my fears.
My first problem arose when I entered Sprouts assuming that they carried miso. They didn’t. Well to be fair, they carried some instant miso soup, but not the real thing. Far from any Asian markets in Pasadena, I then headed to Whole Foods (a block away) hoping they might have miso, as miso has been popularized in the health world as a probiotic. Side note: miso is made of fermented beans, traditionally soy beans. This time I was in luck! In fact, the Whole Foods I was at carried three different types of miso. There was hacho miso, genmai miso, and mugi miso; however, none of these options seemed to be the red or white miso types I had read worked best in ramen broths. In fact, from what I could see through the packaging, all of them looked like various shades of brown. With little to go on, I chose the genmai miso, described as a mellow sweet golden all purpose paste, for my broth.
The genmai miso worked wonders! I mean I don’t have red or white miso to compare it to, but the genmai miso delivered that wonderful umami taste without being too salty or overpowering as I’ve read some miso varieties to be. I will admit that I compromised authenticity to overload my miso soba with veggies, but after all, it is cold season and you have gotta get those micronutrients. So, without further ado, I give you:
Spicy Miso Bird’s Nest Soba Soup
For the miso paste:
- 1/2 cup Genmai Miso
- 1/4 yellow onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tbs shaved ginger
- 1 tsp spicy sesame oil
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs sriracha
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
For the soup
- 6 cups (approximately 2 boxes) Chicken broth
- 2 carrots (shaved using a grater or spiralizer)
- 3/4 yellow onion
- 1 cup snow peas
- 1 package firm tofu
- 1/2 lb buckwheat soba noodles
For the toppings:
- chopped green onions
- 1 soft boiled egg per diner
- bean sprouts
- dried seaweed
Prepare the miso paste. In a food processor, blend miso, onion, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and rice vinegar until a smooth reddish brown paste forms. Set aside.
Dice onion. In a large pot, stir fry onion until soft and translucent. Add carrots, snow peas, cubed tofu, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until carrots and peas are cooked. Add in soba noodles and cook for time suggested on package, approximately 8 minutes.
Remove from heat, let cool for a couple minutes, and stir in miso (note: stirring in while soup is boiling may destroy the live active cultures).
Top your soup with green onions, bean sprouts, and a soft boiled egg atop your vegetable nest. If you want to turn up the spice, you can add extra siracha.