Featured Item of the Week = Miso Soup

Sometimes the simplest foods are some of the best. Think of those foods that you find comfort in that are easy to prepare. Is it a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Mashed potatoes? How about some pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil?

miso soupOne of the simplest menu items we are featuring this week (but also one of the most flavorful) is Miso Soup.

If you have never tried Miso Soup before, I encourage you to come to Tobey-Kendel Dining Room on Wednesday, October 9th for lunch and try some.

Miso soup is a staple of Japanese cuisine. In the United States, we may look at bacon and eggs as a standard breakfast. In Japan, miso soup would be considered the same. It is also a popular item for a quick lunch because it is fast, healthy, and so versatile.

There are two ingredients in miso soup. It starts with a basic dashi stock - the most common stock found in the Japanese kitchen. Instead of using beef or chicken bones to make a flavorful stock, dashi uses dried seaweed as a base and can then be made into three different kinds of dashi.

  • Katsuobushi dashi is made by adding dried bonito flakes to the kelp stock, simmering and straining it out. Bonito (tuna) is filleted, boned, boiled, smoked and then dried. Once dried the fish is shaved paper thin.
  • Niboshi dashi is made from dried sardines.
  • Shitake dashi is made by adding dried Shitake Mushrooms.

miso soupThe addition of either one of these items to the seaweed stock creates a flavor sensation described as "umami." It is the flavor you sense when eating a grilled piece of meat, caramelized onions, bacon, blue cheeses, or even a garden ripe tomato. The flavor identifies the presence of glutamates and nucleotides and is described as being meaty with a long lasting flavor.

Once the dashi stock is prepared, the only other ingredient needed to make miso soup is miso paste. Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans, rice or barley, and salt. There are three basic groups of miso paste. There many varieties, and each has its own special characteristics - just like wine. The basic varieties are:

  • Red miso (akamiso)
    • Savory and meaty, this is the heartiest of the three from having a longer fermentation period.
  • White miso (shiromiso)
    • A sweeter and lighter version.
  • Mixed Miso (awase)
    • This version can be any balance of the two (red/white).

The quality of the beans, rice, and barley - along with the way they are fermented - make a big difference in the final flavor.

To make the soup, you bring your dashi stock to a simmer, turn off the heat, and stir in the miso paste. miso soupYou do not want to bring it to a simmer after adding the paste because it will change the delicate flavors of the miso and is said to kill off beneficial bacteria alive in the paste, an original probiotic food.

Miso Soup has a long history in Japan dating back to approximately 900 AD. The ingredients of rice, soybeans, fish, and seaweed highlight the staple ingredients available in the region. The combination of these ingredients forms a flavorful and healthy concoction.

Pure miso paste is an excellent source omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids. It is loaded with dietary fiber (59%) and protein (64% DV), as well as a good source of minerals. Miso paste is high in amino acids, the basic building blocks of protein, an excellent source of vitamin K, and a decent source of riboflavin (38% DV).

Miso is thought to help improve the appearance of skin and hair because of its high levels of Vitamin E, daisein, and saponin. The long fermentation process of red miso paste allows for the protein to be absorbed by the body more easily. These factors are said to produce glowing skin and shining hair.

miso soupIn a 1990 population-based study by the Japanese National Cancer Centre, it was concluded that frequent miso soup and isoflavone consumption was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.

From this study, other findings have shown that people who eat no miso soup at all are at a 50% higher risk of dying of stomach cancer than those who eat it every day. Those who eat miso frequently are less susceptible to stomach diseases such as gastritis and duodenal ulcers.

You don’t need all the health benefit reasons to eat miso though... the flavor alone is reason enough! You can choose to add vegetables, tofu, or other items to your bowl and then pour over the hot miso.

I hope you have a chance to come enjoy a bowl. Here’s to your health and also to good simple food!


Dining Services is here for you because We Feed The Bears and are proud of it! GO BEARS! Happy Dining from Executive Chef Essig!

Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA (Certified Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Administrator)

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