Miso is one of Japan's most important
staples. Miso soup is served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and is packed with
protein. Miso is basically a mixture of crushed and boiled soybeans, wheat,
barley or rice that is injected with a yeast mold and then allowed to mature
over months or even years. There are a few different forms of miso, each having
its own flavor, color, and texture. Yellow miso is fairly sweet and used in
dressings. Dark miso is used in strong, chunky soups. And finally there is the
red miso, which is excellent for winter soups. This is what we will use for our
Prepare the soup
1. Slice the leek into fine strips.
2. Slice the shitake mushrooms.
3. Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes.
4. To make the soup stock, put the kombu into 7 1/2 cups cold water and bring to a simmer (careful not to boil kombu since this makes it bitter). Remove any surface scum that forms. Add 2 or 3 packets of the bonito flakes and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, until the stock is well reduced. Add another 1 or 2 packets of bonito and quickly remove from the heat. Allow the flakes to settle to the bottom and then strain.
5. Warm the stock back to a simmer. Break the wakame seaweed into small pieces (trim off the tough stem if necessary). Add leeks, mushrooms, tofu cubes, and wakame pieces and simmer for 2-3 minutes until leeks and mushrooms are cooked. Dissolve the miso in a few tablespoons of the hot stock, blending it with a wire whisk. Stir half the mixture into the soup, then taste and add sufficient of the rest to make a rich well-flavored soup. Heat until nearly boiling.
6. Ladle the soup into 4 warmed soup bowls, distributing the leek slices, mushrooms, wakame, and tofu evenly, and serve immediately.