Makes 4 small bowls
This is a traditional Japanese soup in which taste and flavor depend on the miso paste. The two conventional types are white (the soy beans are matured for only a few months, lending a caramel brown color that is lower in salt and slightly sweet) and red (matured for more than one year, deepening the color to red-brown with a high salt content). Miso varieties also include rice, barley, and bean. Another key ingredient is dashi, a bonito fish stock. Make dashi from an instant mix such as Hondashi or from scratch, as instructed here. Homemade has more depth and subtlety.
4 1/4 cups water
1 strip (4 inches) konbu dried kelp, cut lengthwise into fourths
1 cup katsuo-bushi dried bonito fish shavings
1. In a saucepan, pour 4 cups of the water.
2. Gently wipe the kelp once with a damp paper towel. Do not wipe off the nutritious white powder. Place in the saucepan, and set aside for 1 hour off the heat.
3. Place the saucepan over medium heat. Just before the water boils, remove the kelp. Skim the water.
4. Add the remaining 1/4 cup water to stop the cooking. Add the fish shavings. Set over the heat again. When the water begins to boil, turn off the heat.
5. When the shavings sink to the bottom of the pan, strain the broth.
3 1/2 cups dashi
3 tablespoons miso paste
1/2 block (8 ounces) medium or firm tofu, rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons dried wakame seaweed, soaked in water for 5 minutes, and drained
2 scallions, finely chopped
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the dashi. When it boils, lower the heat.
2. In a bowl, combine the miso and 1/2 ladle of hot dashi. Set aside until it dissolves, stirring often.
3. Add the tofu, seaweed, and miso mixture to the dashi. Stir gently and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add the scallions and taste for seasoning. If the soup is too salty, add more dashi or water. If the soup is too mild, add a little miso paste.