Arguably one of the quintessential Japanese foods, miso soup is very traditional. While it may appear to be a simple soup, it actually requires a great deal of refinement and skill to produce the stock known as dashi. Miso soup has been a long-standing favorite in Japan. Moreover, it unites the population as it is enjoyed by people from all classes, from royalty to commoners.
Depending on the specific region, the particular ingredients may vary. Dashi stock is usually made from either kelp or fish to create the body of the soup stock. It’s also common to add Miso paste made from fermented soybeans. Sometimes people add dried fish such as baby sardines (niboshi) or thin shavings of dried tuna (bonito) to the miso soup stock. Vegetable elements, such as dried mushrooms, often the shitake variety, and dried kelp (kombu), are an optional addition. In fact, if the broth is made vegetarian, it is referred to as kombu broth incorporating kelp along with mushrooms. The combination of these elements creates an umami flavor, referring to a taste that is a combination of sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.
What Is In Miso Soup?
Beyond the stock, there are other elements to add to the broth. These include thinly sliced green onions, tofu, and sometimes other seafood such as clams. Meat such as pork will add depth and flavor to the soup. These additions also relate to the season, as it is often according to what items are fresh and in season.
How To Eat
The preparation and serving of miso soup can also vary, but traditionally the soup is served in small lacquer bowls. Oftentimes the bowls have lids that help people drink the soup broth with ease. The soup is also eaten with chopsticks to eat the large ingredients floating in the broth.
While traveling in Japan, you will likely come across miso soup as part of a bento box, or in addition to other meals, including breakfast. In fact, given the health benefits, miso soup is often enjoyed in Japan as a healthy, filling, and nutrient-rich breakfast.
Beyond being delicious, miso soup offers a variety of health benefits which makes it even more appealing. The miso paste is rich in B vitamins as well as K vitamins, E vitamins, and folic acid. This is due to the fermented soy, which also provides healthy bacteria which promote gut health. Miso soup is linked not only to Japanese food culture but is upheld as a part of a healthy and balanced life.