“Here, Miso,” called Vinny, holding out his hand to his fluffy caramel kitten, who gladly came over for a gentle rub behind the ears.
“Why did you call him Miso,” Isla asked as she threw a small toy mouse for the kitten to chase.
“I suppose it was because I like Asian food,” said Vinny, “and this little guy is the exact same color as miso, a food used in Asian cooking. But I’ve never really tried cooking with miso, myself. I’ve heard many good things about it recently, though, as a healthy food contributing to a long, happy life. Maybe we should give it a try?”
Vinny and Isla went to work, mixing up a hot steamy pot of miso soup, perfect for a wintery January day.
Easy Miso Soup
- 1 carrot (about 1 cup), peeled and sliced thin
- ½-1 cup raw shrimp or fish fillet (4-6 ounces), chopped
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons each of freshly chopped garlic and/or ginger (optional)
- 2 tablespoons miso paste (Vinny likes the brown variety best)
- chopped green onion, for garnish
- Peel and slice the carrot.
- Remove the shells and chop the shrimp.
- Bring water to a boil. Add carrots and ginger or garlic if using, reduce heat, and simmer (covered) until carrots soften.
- Add shrimp and miso. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes more, just until shrimp turns pink, garnish, and serve.
You can add whatever you have in the fridge to flesh out your miso soup stock. That’s why my bowl of miso soup looks a little different from the posted recipe. Instead of chopping up a carrot, I used the first variation in the list below, a cup of frozen Asian stir fry veggies. And, I confess, I cheated a bit. I also used some beef bouillon.It tasted very good.
- Instead of raw carrots, throw in a handful or two of frozen veggies. I like the Asian stir fry veggie mix, myself.
- Try drizzling a raw egg into the hot soup, instead of using shrimp.
- Chop up some firm tofu and add as your protein component.
- Or add some cooked leftover chicken or some other cooked meat.
- Add leftover veggies, like broccoli or cauliflower or add them raw and allow time for them to soften in the stock.
- Instead of green onion, throw in some chopped bok choy near the end for a minute or two.
The secret to this soup is the miso paste, the one essential ingredient.
How miso is made
Miso is a much loved food in Asia. This thick paste comes in shades ranging from almost white to dark brown. All misos use soybeans as their base, fermented with salt and a particular kind of fungus from the family Aspergillus, often called kojo on the label.
Variations in flavor and color come from the length of time the paste is allowed to ferment and other grains and microorganisms added to the mix. The darker the color, the stronger the flavor, along with more antioxidants, probiotics, and other important nutrients.
And what a powerhouse of nutrients miso provides. Its nutrients from soybeans are enhanced when the beans are fermented. Click the link to read about the amazing biochemical details of various kinds of miso.
Miso has high amounts of minerals that act as antioxidants. Its manganese, copper, zinc and phosporus are important for strong bones and teeth as well as heart health. Soybeans give miso its high protein and fiber content, as well as high phytonutrient antioxidants.
But fermenting the beans produces new antioxidants with abilities to fight cancer and prevent other chronic diseases caused by inflammation. Fermentation also increases the level of vitamin K in miso, an important factor in strong bones. Look for miso fermented with bacteria if you are particularly interested in bone health.
Miso and salt
Miso’s high salt content has been cause for concern. But research into its effects are surprising. People who get the majority of their salt from miso do not show the usual ill effects from high consumption of table salt. In fact, heart health in miso eaters is significantly better than in people who use table salt in their food.
Scientists are still studying this question, as research into miso is complicated by the fact that it is seldom eaten alone. Some of its benefits may occur because of interactions with other healthy foods taken with it. However, the World Health Organization currently supports the use of fermented soy, namely miso and other products, in a healthy diet that promotes long life.
My New Year’s resolution is to perk up my meals with miso. My easy miso soup base is where I’m starting. How do YOU like your miso?
Here, kitty… Happy New Year, one and all!