One of the most popular dishes in Japan is miso soup, which is an indispensable part of every day Japanese meals. The best thing about it is that you can enjoy it almost everywhere. Be it in the comfort of your home, a side-dish to your favorite meal in hole-in-the-wall diners, or even in high-end restaurants. A meal is never complete without a bowl of miso soup next to your serving of rice and viand and one can almost say that you’re already home when there’s miso soup on the table.
In making a delicious bowl of miso soup, one must be familiar with its ingredients which are mostly found in supermarkets and at home. Understand that the key ingredient of it is the miso paste itself. This healthy ingredient is made from fermented beans and sometimes grains, like brown rice or maybe barley. It can be categorized into red (akamiso), white (shiromiso), or mixed (awase). If miso is something you haven’t encountered but are curious about, know that the longer it ferments, the deeper and stronger it starts to taste whereas the shorter it ferments, the lighter and sweeter the flavor is. The stock, which is made from dashi, is composed of dried small sardines (niboshi), dried kelp (kombu), bonito flakes, and dried shiitake. Combined with miso, it becomes the body of the soup. As for the solid ingredients, it’s usually composed of sliced daikon (radish), tofu, potatoes, onion, and mushrooms. If pork is added to miso soup, it’s automatically called tonjiru or pork soup.
There are actually several ways to prepare and make miso soup, depending on the person and what style of soup needs to be made. Usually, solid ingredients such as vegetables and meat are cooked in simmering dashi to get more flavor out of them while miso paste is separately mixed into a portion of dashi stock which comes from the simmering mix. This is to maintain the live cultures and beneficial bacteria in the miso paste. When the vegetables and meat are cooked, the suspended miso mixture is then added to it and mixed into the soup. The dish is served. Regional miso soups are also popular especially for tourists who want to taste the different variations and flavors a miso soup can offer. There’s the sanpeijeru from Hokkaido prefecture, composed of salmon, daikon, scallions, potatoes, and carrots while Tottori prefecture offers their kanijiru which has a rich, seafood flavor and contains crabs. One also thinks that miso soup must be eaten hot only but in Miyazaki prefecture, they offer their own version of cold miso soup called hiyajiru which contains cucumbers, tofu, myoga ginger and shiso (perilla).
Making miso soup from scratch is easy and isn’t at all time consuming but if you want a quick fix to your miso cravings, one can always purchase instant miso soup in supermarkets, grocery stores, and even convenience stores. It’s usually sold as a dehydrated powder and in paste forms. It contains dried toppings such as tofu with soybeans and wakame, which cooks instantly after pouring boiling water into the mixture. Instant miso soup usually has a shelf life of 4 to 12 months and can be easily enjoyed anywhere, just add hot water.
If you’re on the hunt to find some of the best tasting miso soup in the city, these are some of the best restaurants to visit.
One of the most recommended miso soup places is Misogen (2-7-2, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo). This small restaurant serves one of the best pork miso soups which is best paired with a bowl of rice. It has an incredible flavor which is dense and rich, with just the right amount of braised vegetables such as tofu, carrots, cabbages, potatoes and onions and of course, it’s protein which are tender cuts of braised pork. This restaurant doesn’t only show its deep appreciation for miso soup but also educates people in learning and understanding the delicious world of miso soup.
Uoriki (40-4 Kamiyamacho, Shibuya 150-0047, Tokyo) is another small restaurant which offers set meals that include a delicious serving of miso soup. Served hot with honest to goodness flavors, bursting with different textures from its ingredients, their miso soup is best paired with their sushi and sashimi dishes. What’s even better is that everything on the menu is affordable so you’ll leave not just a happy tummy but with a happy pocket too. It’s a great place for family and friends.
Another great place to score authentic and sumptuous miso soup is at Tonkatsu Tonki (1 Chome-1-2 Shimomeguro, Meguro, Tokyo). This famous restaurant has an open kitchen where you will witness the magic of preparation and cooking of their bestselling tonkatsu dish. People from all over the city flock over this restaurant to get their hands to their delicious tonkatsu dish which is perfectly fried until golden brown and served with a hearty bowl of rice and their miso soup which has the fatty goodness of pork. A real top-notcher!
An old favorite, Bongo Onigiri (Kitao Otsuka 2-26-3 (Kanada Building 1F), Tokyo) has been around for years and has been serving the best onigiri in the city. But they also have a secret and that is their delicious miso soup which has two types: the one with tofu and the other is with Nanako. The miso soup comes for free for kids and the best thing about it is that it’s refillable so when you’re done sipping through the real goodness of miso, you can always ask for another serving.
Healthy, delicious and easy to make, eating authentic miso soup is something you shouldn’t miss when visiting Japan. It doesn’t simply warm the tummy but also warms the soul, giving you that feeling of being at home.
She’s cooking and baking for her family and friends. She finds grocery shopping therapeutic, always takes the longest time in the Asian section and debates with herself whether she needs that extra pack of instant ramen. A lover of sweets, she dreams of owning a patisserie and publishing her book but most of the time, she’s just really thinking of what to eat for breakfast the next day.