Miso Soup with Shiitake

How can you get your miso soup to have the great depth of flavor that it does when you have it at a Japanese restaurant? The secret is in the broth. Traditional miso soup requires a dashi broth which is most commonly made from dried bonito (skipjack tuna) flakes and konbu (kun bu/kelp). Both ingredients can be purchased at most health food stores, the Asian section of regular grocery stores or Asian markets. Miso soup is very easy to make and is extremely nutritious for everyone.

It is particularly good for those that are undergoing cancer treatment; many of the ingredients have been shown to have antitumor properties. I've highlighted the medicinal properties of the ingredients below. Just reading it will make you want to make a healthy bowl of delicious miso soup right now!

Konbu, as it is called in Japanese, is kelp or kun bu in Chinese. Chinese Medicine categorizes konbu as having a salty therapeutic flavor and a cold post digestive temperature. Konbu is high in iodine and can be used to treat thyroid disorders. It resolves many different types of swellings and nodules. It is a diuretic and also reduces blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It is recommended for all types of swellings, nodules and abdominal masses, as well as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Shiitake is high in iron and has a sweet therapeutic flavor and a neutral post digestive temperature, according to Chinese Medicine. Shiitake strengthens qi and has been shown to improve the immune system, lower cholesterol and inhibit tumor growth and viruses. It is recommended for reduced appetite, fatigue, diabetes, high blood pressure, leucopenia (low blood counts), high cholesterol, cancer (especially stomach and cervical cancer) and a weakened immune system.

Miso is most commonly made from fermented soybeans, rice and salt. Miso has sweet and salty therapeutic flavors and a neutral post digestive temperature, according to Chinese Medicine. It is high in the beneficial bacteria, Lactobacillus. Miso strengthens qi and alleviates toxins. Soybeans alone are particularly difficult to digest but the fermentation process, which turns the soybeans into miso, makes the soy easily digestible. Miso stimulates the appetite, improves digestion and has been shown in Japanese studies to treat radiation sickness. It is recommended for fatigue, weakness, emaciation, malnutrition, edema and cancers due to radiation exposure.

Ingredients for Dashi Broth:

1 piece of 4-inch konbu (kun bu/kelp)
4 cups of water
1 cup bonito flakes (loosely packed)

Ingredients for Miso Soup:

2 dried shiitake mushrooms 
4 tablespoons white miso
4 ounces tofu (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
1 scallion (thinly sliced)

Dashi Broth Instructions:

Fill a 2-quart pot with the water and soak konbu and mushrooms in the water for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms. Pull off and discard the mushroom stems, slice thinly and then set the mushrooms aside. Place the pot over medium heat, bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the konbu for 5 minutes and then remove it immediately.

After the konbu has been removed, return the water to a simmer and add the dried bonito flakes. Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the bonito flakes to sink to the bottom of the pot.

Pour the broth through a strainer, retaining the broth. Discard the bonito flakes (or feed them to your cat who will be weaving between your legs by this point.) Our cat loves the flakes. We chop them up and add a little to his food).

Return the dashi broth to the pan.

Miso Soup Instructions:

Bring strained dashi broth back to a simmer and add the sliced shiitake. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the tofu to the mushrooms and broth and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove soup from the heat.

Spoon about a 1/2 cup of the dashi broth into a small bowl or mug. Then dissolve the miso into this small reserved portion of the broth.

Once the miso is fully dissolved, add the mixture into the rest of the soup and gently stir. Each miso will vary in its strength and sodium content. Dissolving the miso into a smaller bowl of the broth makes it easier to be sure that there will be no clumps in your soup and also allows you to add the miso mixture into the soup, a little at a time, until you have achieved the desired strength.

Note: Do not bring the soup to a boil after the miso has been added, as this will kill off the beneficial bacteria that is in the miso.

Garnish with chopped scallion and serve right away!