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Clean the kombu with a damp towel and soak the kombu in water for 30 minutes or overnight (preferred). NEVER wash kombu and do not remove the white substance -that’s umami! These days it's pretty clean, so you can skip this process. Just make sure there are no dirty particles.
After 30 minutes (or overnight), the kombu is rehydrated. This liquid is called cold brew Kombu Dashi.
Pour kombu dashi and kombu into a saucepan. SLOWLY bring to boil on medium-low heat so you can extract umami from kombu as much as possible. Right before the stock is boiling (it gets slimy and yields a bitter taste if you leave it), remove the kombu. Now what you have is Kombu Dashi. If you’re vegetarian/vegan, use this kombu dashi for your miso soup. What to do with used kombu? You can reuse it to make Simmered Kombu or Homemade Furikake Rice Seasoning.
If you're not vegetarian/vegan, add Katsuobushi and let it simmer for 30-60 seconds. Turn off the heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
Strain over a fine-mesh sieve and now you have roughly 4 cups of Awase Dashi. You can store in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days and in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. Repurpose the used katsuobushi to make Homemade Furikake Rice Seasoning.
Here I demonstrate to make 2 cups/2 servings of miso soup. You can use the formula; 1 cup (240 ml) dashi + 1 Tbsp miso = 1 serving miso soup. If you add more ingredients/vegetables, the amount of soup will increase and you will also need more miso. Add 2 cups (480 ml) dashi in the saucepan.
Are you in a hurry and no time to make dashi? You can use Dashi Packet or Dashi Powder to make instant dashi. Click the link for the recipe.
If your miso soup doesn't include hard ingredients or clams, go to the next step. Add hard ingredients like root vegetables. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer until they become tender. If you're making Clam Miso Soup, add clams in cold brew kombu dashi. Bring it to a gentle boil and once the shells are open, turn off the heat (do not overcook).
If your miso soup doesn’t include these ingredients, bring dashi to a boil and go to next step. AFTER dashi starts boiling, add in soft vegetables like leafy greens, mushrooms, deep-fried tofu pouch because they require less cooking time. At this point, keep the soup at a simmer and make sure it stays warm (not OVERBOILING).
Add a small amount of miso at a time (you can start with 2 Tbsp miso for 2 cups dashi). Put miso inside a ladle and slowly add dashi into the ladle to dissolve miso completely. You can buy a miso muddler or a fine-mesh miso strainer which helps you dissolve miso faster. If you accidentally added too much miso, dilute the miso soup with dashi (or water). NEVER OVERBOIL miso soup because it loses nutrients, flavors, and fragrance.
Add tofu AFTER miso is completely dissolved because you might break the tofu when mixing in miso. If you add chilled tofu from the refrigerator, miso soup would get cooler. Reheat miso soup until it is just hot, but NOT BOIL.
Add rehydrated wakame (seaweed). I recommend re-hydrating dried wakame in a separate bowl of water to get rid of saltiness, instead of re-hydrating inside miso soup. Add ingredients that do not require cooking such as chopped green onions, mitsuba, yuzu, and blanched spinach right before serving to keep the fresh fragrance and color.
Serve immediately. Place on the right side of the table setting (Read on Ichiju Sansai, or 1 soup 3 dishes; see the picture).
In general, it's best to use up all the miso soup because the fragrance and taste will be lost as time passes by. Let your miso soup cool at room temperature (up to 4 hours - otherwise miso soup will be spoiled) and then refrigerate. You can keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. If you want to make a big batch, it's best to keep the soup BEFORE adding miso. Add the miso only for the portion you need. You can freeze miso soup for up to 2 weeks. If the miso soup contains potatoes or tofu, remove them before freezing as the textures subject to change.
Bring miso soup in a pot over medium heat, but not to overboil. Miso loses its nutrients at high temperature.