Miso #3: Spicy Aka with Shirataki

This time the miso roulette has turned up aka (red) miso, and I think it’s my favorite so far.  It has a much stronger flavor that goes well with spicy things.  I made this for dinner in a rush last week and it was even a hit with the dad, who is morally opposed to miso.

The shirataki noodles may be alarming to those unfamiliar with them: they come packed in water and look rather like jellyfish tentacles.  They’re made from konnyaku, which I believe is some sort of yam, and somehow they manage to be totally calorie free.  The Japanese call them a “broom for the stomach”.  They have very little flavor of their own, but they have an nice texture and take on the flavor of whatever they’re cooked with.  Mysterious, but tasty.  Be sure when buying them that you don’t accidentally pick up tofu shirataki, which are an innovation of Western low-carb fanatics and in my opinion fairly vile.

  • 1.5 tbsp aka miso
  • 1 tbsp chili paste (I used sambal oelek, but gochujang would do as well)
  • 2 cup dashi stock
  • 1/2 package bunashimeji mushrooms
  • small handful enoki mushrooms
  • 1/4 yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 1 cup seaweed shirataki

The shirataki will smell slightly bitter when you open the package.  Rinse them thoroughly until the smell disappears.  Discard water.  Add mushrooms, yellow onion, and cover with dashi stock.  Simmer until the onion is soft.

In a separate bowl, mix the miso and chili paste with a few tablespoons of lukewarm water.  Add to soup just before serving.  Garnish with green onions.

Advertisements

Miso #2: Awase and Ginger

Going to the Asian grocery is always an exercise in memory loss.  When it comes time to buy a new carton of miso, I can never recall what kind I had last.  It doesn’t help that none of the packaging is in English.  Usually, I pick something at random.  The most recent result of the soup lottery is awase miso, or mixed miso.  It’s about equal parts shiro miso and aka miso, and it combines the best qualities of both.  The one I got has barley in it as well as soy and wheat, and it’s really tasty on a cold winter day.  This particular recipe came about from an otherwise bare refrigerator.  It was unexpectedly toothsome.

  • 1.5 tbsp awase miso
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup dashi stock
  • 8 button mushrooms, sliced
  • handful julienned carrots
  • 1/2 cup purple onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger

Cook the vegetables and the ginger in two parts chicken and one part dashi stock.  As always, if you want to add some sort of noodle, cook it separately and add when the rest of the ingredients have cooked.

In a separate bowl, mix the miso with lukewarm water.  Add to soup just before serving.

Serves 1-2.

Tamagoyaki

Tamagoyaki, or, square yellow eggy stuffI have a bad habit of hanging around the counter at sushi restaurants, creepily watching the chef work his magic.  I don’t usually say anything, but every so often I remember that it’s less creepy to hang around watching people do their jobs if you make a bit of polite conversation.  In pursuance of which, “What the heck is that square yellow stuff?”  I ask one day.  The sushi chef gives me a funny look.  “Egg.”

Egg.  Of course.  I should have guessed.

Square yellow eggy stuff, it turns out, is called tamagoyaki (fried egg) by those in the know.  In the US, it is usually seen cold as part of nigiri sushi, on top of a hunk of rice and secured with a strip of nori, but my Dex stat isn’t high enough to make nigiri, so I’m not going to talk about that.  In Japan it is often served hot, as a sort of simple omelet.  It’s great cold as a bento box staple: I’ll make a huge one on Monday when I’m working at the sailing camp in the summer and eat it all week.  Despite its somewhat daunting appearance, it is actually relatively simple to make, and exceptionally tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • cooking spray

Scramble everything (well, okay, not the cooking spray) together with a fork until the colour is uniform.  Liberally coat your frying pan in cooking spray.  Traditionally a square pan is used for this, but most of us don’t have square pans, so don’t worry about it.

Send everyone else out of the kitchen.  This is impossible to do in the presence of others, particularly overly-curious housewives.  Pour a very thin layer of egg into the pan.  As soon as it begins to set, roll it up from one side with a spatula or a pair of chopsticks.  Pour in a second layer.  Roll the first layer back across the new one.  Continue this process until you’ve used up all your eggs.

Turn the blob out onto a sushi mat.  The first few times it will be a blob, but with practice you’ll be able to roll out flawless tamagoyaki in minutes.  Squish it until it’s vaguely rectangular, slice it up, and serve.  If you aren’t going to eat it right away, leave it to cool in the sushi mat before refrigerating it.

I don’t know what the traditional condiments for this are, or if there are any, but I like it with gari and ponzu sauce.

The Miso Soup Post

Miso hungry.... okay I'm done now.

Right, then.  Miso soup is made from dashi stock and miso paste.  Miso paste is made from fermented rice, barley, soy beans, and salt.  Rather like yogurt, it is apparently teeming with beneficial microbes, and in consequence is much beloved of the probiotics crowd.  You can buy it at any Asian grocery, and it comes in three varieties: white (shiro), red (aka), and mixed (awase).  I have been using white miso, which is milder than red, and also easier to get.

The lovely thing about miso soup is that you can put in it whatever you please.  The list below is what I put in my standard breakfast miso, but feel free to experiment.  The food ninjas will not come for you.  I promise.  If they do, let me know and I’ll have a word with them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 2 cups dashi stock
  • Bunapi mushrooms
  • Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • Extra-firm tofu
  • Spring onion, sliced
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Udon noodles, prepared according to package (Optional.  I don’t actually put these in unless I’ve made this for dinner, which has happened all of once, as my father despises miso)

Prep time: max 10 minutes

First you’re going to prepare the miso.  If you just spoon it in right out of the jar, you’ll wind up with unpleasant globs throughout your soup.  That is not what we want.  Instead, mix the miso with a couple of tablespoons of water until it’s thin and runny but still opaque.  Set this aside for now.

Cook the mushrooms and tofu in the dashi stock.  Once they’re cooked to your taste and the water is boiling, add the spring onions.  Remove the pot from the heat and add the miso.  Stir it a little bit to disperse, and then serve immediately, over your noodles if you included those.  If the soup is left to sit, the miso will cook and all of those wonderful probiotic properties will be destroyed (tragedy, no?).  More importantly, it will go grainy and taste weird.

Add the mung bean sprouts at the table.  They also get weird if left in the hot soup too long before eating.

Stop reading this.  Now.  Go make yourself some soup.

But first….

Dashi stock.  This clear broth is ubiquitous in Japanese cooking, and is my first order of recipe business.  I advise anyone who intends to be cooking a lot of this kind of thing to keep a quart or so of it around at all times.  You never know where it will turn up.

Yeah, pretty bizarre. I know.

Konbu

Ingredients:

  • A 6″ square piece of Konbu
  • A generous handful of Katsuobushi
  • 6 cups of water

Toss the konbu and the water into a pot and allow the seaweed to soak for at least 20 minutes.  It will take in water and become something now recognizable as a vegetable.  When it has thoroughly reconstituted, turn the stove on and bring everything to a boil.

Fish the konbu out of the pot and reserve it for later.  It’s good in miso soup or as part of a stir fry; once my mother bagged a piece while I wasn’t looking and just ate it on its own, which she regretted immediately.

Fish shavings. Yum.

Katsuobushi

Remove the pot from the heat and drop the handful of katsuobushi right into the pale green liquid the konbu has left behind.  There will be a strong smell of fish: don’t worry, it dissipates quickly.  Immediately strain the katsuobushi out of the broth and squeeze all of the liquid out of it.  Discard.

If you don’t want to use the fish, vegan konbu dashi is easily made simply by omitting all of the fish steps.

This keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, although it does lose pungency over time.

Huzzah.  Now we can talk about miso.