I’ve been cooking Japanese food for more than 10 years now. It’s hard to imagine that I’ll actually come to love Japanese cooking especially when I recall how I detest the taste and smell of some Japanese dishes when I first came to Japan 14 years ago.
I have friends prodding me to show them how to cook Japanese dishes and I thought I’d start this weekly feature on my blog to share with friends who can’t come visit me in my kitchen.
First up is basic miso soup with wakame (Pristine’s favorite). Miso soup or miso-shiru is a traditional Japanese soup present in most (if not every!) Japanese meal. I’ll tell you my first encounter with miso soup 14 years ago – I was scared to touch it! To me it smelled and looked weird. When I stirred my soup bowl, it looked like I was served an aquarium with foggy water!
But because it is present in our every meal at the dormitory canteen, I came to like it. Unbelievable but true. So off with the recipe!
The ingredients: Wakame Seaweed (dried), Red Miso Paste, Hon Dashi Granules and spring onions. Simple, eh?
For non-Japanese speakers/readers, the miso is the one on the left (I tilted the package), the box with the blue fish is the dashi granules – dashi gives flavor to the soup and is a basic ingredient in most Japanese dishes. The green plastic on the right is the dried wakame seaweed.
1. Get a small pot and fill it with water 3/4 to the brim. Allow the water to boil.
2. For the meantime, place water in small bowl and add two pinches of dried wakame seaweed. This packed dried wakame is deceiving, you’d think it’s expensive but they’ll last long because they expand TEN FOLD!
3. When the water boils, add dashi granules then add the expanded wakame. Do not overcook the wakame seaweed.
4. After about 2 minutes, add a spoonful of miso paste to the boiling soup, carefully stirring to avoid miso lumps.
Note: You can avoid miso lumps by doing either: (1) Removing a small amount of soup from the boiling pot, place in a separate bowl and adding the miso paste, mixing it thoroughly or (2) Placing the miso paste in a strainer then immersing the strainer in the dashi soup while pressing the miso through the sieve at the back of the spoon.
With this first recipe feature, I confess to the world: I am a shortcut cook. Some Japanese cooking require tedious and meticulous work, those things that scare foreign people from making it. My quest is to make it more simple, easy and encouraging for other non-Japanese folks to try!
Where were we? Sorry, I talk too much.
5. Right after adding the miso paste, lower the fire and add the sliced spring onions. Do not let it boil. Remove from fire and serve.
Miso soup is the one on the left. Others on the mat are vinegared cucumber salad (also with wakame), a bowl of takikomi gohan (rice cooked with seasonings, vegetables and sometimes, meat) and a glass of mugi cha (barley tea).
Whew, I didn’t know writing about a basic miso soup recipe would require a long post! But see? it’s simple and not so scary at all!
Dozo, meshi agare! (Enjoy your meal!)
UAE/Dubai residents can get various Japanese ingredients from the Japanese store, Dean’s Fujiya located near Lamcy Plaza in Bur Dubai. Telephone: 04-337-0401.