Day 23: Miso soup
It’s about time that I talked about one of those Japanese foods that’s pretty hard to miss(o). That little pun probably gave it away – I’m referring to miso soup.
It’s not served with every single meal but it has come with about half of those I’ve had at restaurants in Japan. Often it just miraculously appears without you ever realising it was part of the meal. Sometimes it comes included in a ‘set meal’, where you get more than one dish on the same tray. I never complain, though. It’s one of the highlights of a meal… and the Japanese can eat it at any meal of the day!
Miso soup is made from a stock called ‘dashi’, which at the most basic level is made from fish and seaweed. The miso paste is then added to the broth. The miso paste itself is made by fermenting rice, barley or soybeans… although soy is the most common ingredient used.
There are then some extra ingredients which can be added to miso soup. Usually there will be some seaweed and often some small pieces of tofu as well. If the soup is just an addition to a full meal, that’s normally all that will be included. If the soup is supposed to be heartier, then you might find some things like potatoes, mushrooms, onion, or fish.
The good news is that, aside from being delicious, miso soup is very good for you. It’s got minerals, amino acids, protein, fibre, and a few random vitamins. One study has found that it reduces the risk of breast cancer quite significantly… (but I’ve got to admit there seems to be a study like that for almost any food you could name!).
Miso soup has been eaten in Japan for centuries with its origin in the country traced back to about 500AD. Although production methods have changed since then, the basic ingredients have stayed the same. Still, I’m not sure what the ancient Japanese would have thought of the packets of miso soup you can buy in the convenience stores these days!
Normally at this point I would mention how much it costs but that’s hard to do with miso soup because it’s normally included as part of something else. So let’s, for the sake of the argument, just say that it’s priceless!
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