Let’s talk miso and mushrooms. This is my trusty, comforting wintertime combo — my umami bowl — which I slurp happily at least three times a week this time of year. I love the salty, heady steam hitting my face, my glasses engulfed in a foggy haze. During these dark, frigid months, when Canadians tend to lack vitamin D, mushrooms help to fill the void. They are the best plant-based source of “the sunshine vitamin” and in the midst of coronavirus, our immune systems could certainly benefit.
Forget the miso soup served at sushi joints. It’s basically water, miso paste, a couple sprigs of green onion and a whole lot of MSG. A homemade version, rather, is customizable and all comes together in one pot, in 40 minutes or less. In addition to a good-quality miso paste, the crucial elements are kombu (dried kelp) and shiitake mushrooms. (This vegan version skips the bonito fish flakes.) The result? That coveted, savoury umami-ness.
Recipes for miso soup typically call for kombu dashi (the soup stock) to be made separately, but I like to boil the kombu and shiitake directly in the same pot. First, run the kombu under cold water to soften it a bit. Then chop it into small strips and toss them in the pot along with the mushrooms. Pictured below: raw kombu, about 7 inches long and 2 inches wide.
Pictured below: kombu chopped up.
The earthy chewiness of mushrooms add robust texture to the soup, and satisfy my occasional meat cravings. Pictured below: shiitake, king oyster and regular white mushrooms.
Sliced carrot and chopped green onion boost the flavour, along with chili bean paste. For protein, throw in some tofu blocks and eda mame. For extra crunch, chop up some broccoli or cabbage. Just about any leafy green will work, like spinach, bok choy and kale. You could load it up further with sweet corn, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots and roasted seaweed.
Instead of the classic noodle, I went with doughy, pillowy gnocchi. Boil them in the pot last, until they float to the top. The starch from the gnocchi will help to thicken the liquid, turning the broth into a chunky kind of stew. If you prefer your soup more soupy, cook the gnocchi separately and add it to the pot just before you plan to eat.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yields: one medium soup pot, or three large bowls
- 4 cups of water
- 3 to 4 tbsp of miso paste
- at least 4 shiitake mushrooms plus any other variety, chopped
- kombu, chopped
- chili bean paste (optional)
- sesame seeds
- green onion, chopped
- bok choy
- sweet corn
- eda mame
- In a soup pot, bring water to a boil and dissolve the miso paste.
- Add the kombu and mushrooms.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the soup is simmering, add the vegetables and tofu.
- Bring the heat up to about medium-high. Add the gnocchi and cook until they float to the top, about 5 minutes.
- When ready to serve, garnish with green onion and sesame seeds.