Monday, 22 April 2013

Miso Soup


I love eating at sushi restaurants but I'm getting sick and tired of the big con. Years ago sushi in the UK would be expensive because non-one really ate it; therefore only a few restaurants did it, and because they couldn't guarantee selling everything they bought they would factor in a huge wastage amount into the dish prices.

These days, however, sushi is pretty much a British signature cuisine. There's a sushi place every 50 yards in London and every 100 yards everywhere else. I'm not counting supermarket sushi or Pret a Manger ('no raw fish!' they proclaim, proudly for some reason), but I am including Yo Sushi, Wasabi and You&Me. The thing they all have in common is that the salmon and tuna is pretty much as exotic as it gets in these High Street places. And THAT is the big con. Order in any normal restaurant a tuna nicoise salad or a salmon fishcake and it'll cost you £8 maximum. Go to a sushi restaurant, however, and half that sized portion of fish is £20. AND THEY DON'T EVEN COOK IT!

Me, on the other hand, a veteran of a few Far Eastern trips, prefer eating the more obscure gungy stuff. I love sea urchin, any number of fish roes, raw molluscs and raw octopus. The weirder and more repugnant, the better (I'm not truly happy until I shudder at the very thought of putting the food in my mouth). But whatever I eat and wherever I eat it, I always need a miso soup to accompany it. It's very comforting.

For years, I was afraid of miso. When stirred in a soup, it clouds up. After settling for a minute, it looks like a living breathing amoebic organism. It is, regardless of its questionable looks, delicious and packed full of that mythical sixth taste, umami.

What I didn't know, was that it doesn't need cooking. You just stir and dissolve some of the fermented soya paste into some boiling water and add some cheap garnishes. In a way, a miso soup is closer to a Nescafe beverage than real food. It lasts forever (it's already fermented, FFS) and so there is no wastage. So why the f**k are the restaurants charging more than a pound a bowl? Some of the more 'upmarket' places charge a fiver! Since I discovered the secret, I refuse to eat it anywhere that charges more than a pound. Lie: I mean 75p.

One other thing to add, is that miso paste is not only completely delicious, but probably quite versatile too. It's hard to keep my fingers out of the jar. Over the course of the next few days, I'm going to experiment with it and see whether I can make some soup dumplings with it, maybe a salad dressing, maybe a dip. Whatever it is, will taste bloody brilliant.

At £4 for a big jar, a single serving comes in at 40 pence, including the garnishes.

It may be cheap, and not much of a recipe, but this soup is absolutely delightful. Buy some white miso paste flavoured with dashi (a type of dried fish flake, called bonito) and you won't look back.

Serves 1


1 tablespoon of white miso paste, flavoured with dashi (or without dashi, if you're a veggie)
400ml boiling water
50g block tofu, diced
1 spring (salad) onion, chopped
1 small piece wakame (seaweed), optional

Dissolve the miso in the boiling water and add the garnishes. Not very difficult, eh?

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