At The Coop

At The Coop

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Miso Shiitake Soup With Tofu

         I did a little experimenting in the kitchen today. I've been wanting to try cooking with seaweed, and I like the pre-packaged-just-add-hot-water miso soups that you can buy at the natural food stores okay, so I decided to make my own.
         I picked up some SHIRO brand miso paste (made with non-GMO soybeans) and some GENKAI Ito WAKAME dried seaweed yesterday at the international market when I was on the way home from getting new rubber put on my Nissan Versa tour bus. (Only two...what you might call semi-retirement.)  I also replenished our stocks of sesame oil and ZIYAD brand Red Hot Pepper Paste.
        This morning, I went to the nearest big corporate grocery store and bought fresh a ginger root, some shiitake mushrooms, some firm tofu, and some random fruits and veggies that our refrigerator seemed to be lacking.
       First things first. I cut about a third of the block of tofu into small cubes, and set them out to drain between several paper towels and on top of some newspaper.
        Then I cut about 1 1/2 inches off of the fat end of the ginger root. I peeled it, cut it thin slices crossways (this way you cut the fibers and don't end up with stringy pieces of ginger), and then chopped it somewhere between small and fine. I ended up with about 2 tablespoons. I cheated and used pre-chopped garlic. It's quicker, easier, and not so stinky on the fingers.
        I have a shallow stainless steel pot that I like to use for things like this. I put it on a medium heat, and added a splash (about a tablespoon, plus or minus) of sesame oil. Once the oil was hot, I added the vegetables that I had already prepped...some small-diced onions, some thinly-sliced celery, and some julienned (small thin sticks) carrots...along with the ginger and about a tablespoon of garlic.
Once the vegetables started to soften up, I added the sliced shiitakes, a teaspoon of the Red Hot Pepper Paste, and a tiny splash of soy sauce.
      The next step was to rehydrate the dried seaweed. You should always use way less than you think you're going to want, because once you place it in cold water, it gets HUGE. I wish I had realized that. I soaked it for five or six minutes, drained the water off (I used a mesh-style strainer) and then squeezed out any excess water. I then chopped half of it up into pieces that seemed like they would be comfortable to eat with a soup spoon. The rest went into the refrigerator for some other experiment. (I told you it gets huge.)
           The seaweed, after soaking, and before chopping.
            Once the mushrooms had softened, I added 4 cups of water and 4 tablespoons of the miso paste. After the paste dissolved into a broth, I added the seaweed and the tofu. Then I covered it and set it on simmer for a couple of hours. You could probably go shorter than that, but I like to give hot soups as much time as I can.
     It was very tasty, although I think next time (and there will be a next time) I will skip the soy sauce. Miso and seaweed are both already salty. The soup wasn't any more salty than the soups you get at most Chinese restaurants, but I certainly wouldn't have wanted it to be any saltier than it was. I found this homemade version to be way more satisfying than the instant packages.
     Don't be afraid to try this at home. I'm glad I did, You can use whatever vegetables you have handy, and the brand name items I used were what was available at my local international market. Use whatever you can find brand-wise.
     Good stuff!

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