The thing about being a scaredy cook, is you have to face your fears. Domino them, if you will, one at a time.
At least that’s what I’m hoping.
I love Miso soup. It barely hits the sides in terms of fullness but I don’t care – it’s salty and deep and something I run out of the office at least once a week to buy because it’s delicious and cheap.
Naturally I’ve wanted to make miso soup at home for a while. Problem? The information on miso pastes is overwhelming – they’re different colours, made from different things. You can get hard and soft pastes, instant and must-be-refridgerated-lest-it-die. There’s regions and, honestly, miso snobs. There’s miso for sauces and marinades and other misos for soups and other miso that’s for sacrificing to the Gods or something. I’ve stood in health food shops and supermarkets and asian groceries and stared at the array of miso, failing to make a decision. I’ve asked people to enlighten me as to which paste I want and been given the infuriating response of “it’s personal preference”.
I don’t know what my preference is! I just want to make soup that tastes like every Japanese restaurant ever – I want that paste. I mean, I just want soup, is that so hard?!
So, I finally took the plunge. I just grabbed one. In my normal supermarket run I just grabbed the first packet I saw that said “miso”. This week I was making soup – it was happening!
Well, it happened, and, as it turns out, it was the wrong miso. I’m willing to give myself some credit and say as a white, middle-class, self-labelled “scaredy cook” Australian girl who only knows miso soup from sushi restaurants or in take-away Styrofoam bowls I may lack in some cooking knowledge required for the making of miso soup. In this case, however, I think it was the miso.
I made soup with soba and wakame and vegetables, I made the dashi stock to mix the precious paste into so I didn’t kill it (boiling miso is a sin, apparently, I suspect because it’s a microorganism and therefore alive like yoghurt and the goodness in it would die if overheated) and was getting excited that I was able to finally turn that delicious workday snack into a fully fledged meal. But it was light. I thought I needed to add more miso paste, that maybe my miso:water ratio was out. So I did… and a bit more… and a bit more. Until it was ridiculous, until I realized that I could probably upend the packet into my soup and it wouldn’t taste right and wouldn’t get any deeper in flavour.
The flavour I had was nice, don’t get me wrong, but what I was tasting was slightly sweet and mellow – I can see how it’d make an excellent dipping sauce for something, a glaze maybe, or a marinade. A reduction, something to accompany or temper something else. I believe I found a sauce miso. Not a soup, miso. Apparently there is a difference.
Here’s some pictures of my soup but I won’t include the recipe because I wasn’t happy with it – I’m including this entry, though, because it’s the first in my miso quest. This is happening. I’m hunting down the next miso paste, I’m upping my research, I’m going back to my oracle (Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian), I’m buying a whisk, I’m doing everything short of going into the local restaurant and asking (and I’m not even writing that off as an option) because it’s a challenge now. It’s possible, I just don’t know how yet.
I may be a scaredy cook, but that doesn’t mean I get to back down and not try again when something doesn’t work the first time.