It is one of the most consumed foods in Japan: miso soup.
Japanese cuisine is not only limited to sushi and sashimi. Once you start learning about the Japanese culinary art, you must understand the meaning of the word umami. If, for Westerners, the four primary tastes are salty, sweet, bitter, and sour, there is for the Japanese a fifth essential flavor: umami, which means “delicious taste”.
What is the origin of umami?
In the early twentieth century, Professor Ikeda detected a different taste of those known so far while conducting a research on a seaweed broth. This taste is now 100 years old and is just starting to be known in the Western world. One of the reasons is that umami has only been recognized worldwide as the fifth taste since 2001.
What is umami?
Umami is a real sensation, triggered by the presence in food of one or more of these three substances: glutamate (present in prosciutto, parmesan, dried seaweed), guanylate (present in dried mushrooms, crab, meat) and inosinate (present in tuna, meat, sea urchins). In general, the taste is closely linked to the presence of proteins, and is found in savory rather than sweet dishes.
What is miso?
Miso (pronounced misso) is a traditional food in Japan and China and can be found in the form of a very strong-flavored salty paste. It is obtained from soy beans, salt and, depending on the manufacturing process, either barley or rice.
How to make miso
Soybeans are first steamed, then mixed with salt water and then fermented with koji (fungus that stimulates fermentation). The mixture is being aged and traditionally fermented in cedar barrels for a period ranging from a few weeks to three years.
Miso is therefore the result of a double fermentation: the first, a short one, gives koji; the second, a longer one, gives miso.
What is dashi?
Beside miso, another key ingredient in this soup is dashi, which is an ingredient of many Japanese recipes. Prepared essentially with dried bonito (Katsuo-bushi) and dried shiitakes, cooked or soaked in hot water. These dried foods provide the umami taste.
What is wakame?
The third unfamiliar ingredient that is necessary in miso soup is wakame (sea fern). It is an edible seaweed that is very popular in Asia and especially in Japan where it originated. The Japanese make use of wakame in food but for therapeutic purposes.
This miso soup recipe was just excellent. Try it!
- 2 teaspoons granulated dashi
- 3 cups water
- 3 tablespoons miso paste
- 2 tablespoons dried wakame seaweed
- 2 tablespoons tamarind juice
- 4 oz. tofu , diced
- 1 oz. Chinese chive
Rehydrate the wakame seaweed and rinse well.
In a saucepan, combine water, dashi granules and the seaweed. Bring to a boil.
When the water is boiling, lower to medium heat. Add miso paste and tamarind juice. Stir well.
Add tofu and chives. Simmer gently for 2 minutes before serving.