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CLOSE-UP JAPAN Vol. 34 No. 4 April 2021

Miso Soup

Miso soup with tofu and wakame seaweed
Miso soup with carrot, daikon, shimeji mushrooms, sato-imo taro and abura-age deep-fried tofu

Miso soup is an ever-popular mainstay in Japanese cuisine. Although it is basically made of only miso and dashi stock, this versatile soup assumes many variations that reflect longstanding personal and family tastes.

Miso is a fermented paste whose ingredients are soybeans, salt and one of the following types of koji (fermentation starter): rice koji, barley koji, or soybean koji. The type and amount of koji used determine the character of the miso. There are also several varieties of dashi stock, such as katsuobushi dried bonito flakes, kombu and small dried anchovies or sardines. Pre-packaged, powdered dashi is commonly available, but some types of miso contain dashi, so the soup can be made simply by dissolving the paste in boiling water.

Miso soup is commonly prepared with one to two added ingredients, which may include preferred combinations of tofu, wakame seaweed, daikon, various mushrooms or asari clams—topped with chopped Japanese long onion or scallion. At home, heartier soups with multiple ingredients often accompany rice, making for a satisfying and nutritional meal. Miso soup recipe books offer inspiration for home cooks.

Miso soup variations reflect personal and family tastes


Shops specializing in miso soup serve regional variations or unique miso blends; soup may be ordered alone or accompanied by a bowl of rice and pickles. Miso soup can also be purchased at supermarkets and convenience stores, which sell a dizzying array of instant, just-add-hot-water soups in packets or ready-to-eat cups. Pre-prepared mixes are available in single servings with countless options in terms of ingredients, types of miso and dashi stocks.

Recently, homemade, individualized misodama “miso balls” are trending. These are prepared by blending together one’s preferred miso, dashi and other ingredients. This custom miso mix is divided into single portions, formed into balls, and refrigerated or frozen. To serve a distinctive alternative to store-bought instant products, hot water is poured over the misodama in a soup bowl then mixed. Misodama are perfect for a quick breakfast, and easy to carry to the office for lunch.

Vol. 34

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