Umami. It’s the fifth taste. You can get in a tube, drink a lot of soy sauce, or you can use hon dashi. Hon Dashi is essentially Japanese fish stock made from simmered konbu seaweed and dried bonito fish flakes. Making it yourself will yield the most delicious, smoky rich broth possible – or you can buy it in powdered form at ANY asian market.
For years, I made miso soup by adding hot water to fresh miso paste and dried wakame seaweed. It was always good – but not great. Then I read Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat by Naoimi Moriyama and she went on and on about dashi in miso soup. And low and behold—a scant teaspoon of the stuff in my miso made it about a thousand times better. I made this for a friend last night and she complained of food orgasms.
This soup is a tribute to umami because it has both Japanese dashi and Thai fish sauce. It’s sweet and salty and tart and spicy—and, like Pho, it invites the eater to flavor it however he or she chooses. It’s also pretty hearty. Use this recipe and divide it up between two and you have yourself a nice, warm, light winter dinner.
Spicy Miso Soup with Tofu, Glass Noodles and Lime
You will need:
5 cups water
1 teaspoon hon dashi
2 Tablespoons “white” miso paste *or whatever miso you have on hand
1 Tablespoon dried wakame seaweed
4 large dried shitake mushrooms
1/2 block (about 1 cup) medium firm tofu cut into 1/2 inch squares
1 large shallot, sliced into rings
2 bundles or 2 cups rice vermicelli noodles (see photo)
4 lime wedges
1/4 teaspoon Togarashi (japanese red pepper seasoning)
1. Bring 5 cups of water and the hon dashi to boil in a medium-sized pot. Add the shitake mushrooms and wakame and boil for another 3 minutes. Reduce to a simmer and add the tofu, shallot and vermicelli noodles. Ladle out a half cup of the broth and mix with the miso in a separate bowl to combine. Add the miso mixture back into the pot. Cut the lime in half and squeeze one half directly into the soup. Slice the other half into wedges for serving.
2. Fish the shitakes out with chopsticks and slice into strips to add the serving bowls. Divide the soup into four bowls- using chopsticks to transfer the noodles and seaweed. Serve with a bottle of fish sauce on the table, a jar of togarashi and lime wedges.
I would recommend about 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce and 2 dashes of togarashi for each bowl.