One of the coolest things that I have done over here is a Japanese cooking class with my English Club. We started with the basics. I learned how to make onigiri and a legit miso soup from my students. It was a #peaklifeexperience.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, then turn it off and add a packet of bonito flakes. Stir and pour into a bowl. Let sit for about five minutes.
The bonito flakes should sink to the bottom of the bowl.
What the heck are bonito flakes you might be thinking?
I wasn’t entirely sure. I found my favorite definition on Serious Eats, which called them, “dried moldy fish confetti made by insane people.” Whew, I’m still laughing. They are essentially dried skipjack tuna fish flakes, resembling fish food that you would give to your pet goldfish. I think fancier miso soup recipes also use wakame (seaweed) during this step, but my gals just made it with bonito flakes.
After five minutes, pat yourselves on the back, THIS IS DASHI. The backbone of 99% of Japanese dishes.
Cut up your vegetables. We cut up carrots and a daikon radish, which are the size of small children over here. In truly Japanese KAWAII (cute) fashion, we also cut the vegetables into shapes: hearts and flowers.
Combine your dashi and vegetables in the same pot. Bring to a simmer until vegetables soften.
Remove the soup from the heat and add in tofu. We used fried tofu, but I have seen miso soup with, you know, any kind of tofu. In Japan, there are about 200 varieties.
It’s miso time. In Japan, there are two main types of miso: red and white. The red is more prevalent in southern Japan – I think? – while the white miso is more popular in the northern areas. We use white in Toyama-ken. In general, white is more popular.
WHAT IS MISO?
One of the girls brought in homemade miso in a Tupperware container. She took a few tablespoons and mixed it with a small amount of the dashi to smooth out any lumps before adding it to the rest of the pot. Stir well.
Let soup sit for a few more minutes, then serve. Optional: garnish with diced green onion and dried wakame seaweed strips.
We had our bowls of soup plain with homemade onigiri (rice balls) and tamagoyaki (rolled Japanese omelet).
And now for the best part: we can officially say that when life gives us “dried moldy fish confetti made by insane people,” we can make a mean pot of miso soup out of it.