Miso Confused Soup
The body is an amazing thing. It’s so vulnerable to everything yet so resilient. Is it our will that keeps our bodies from crumbling under the weight of our harsh environments or is our slavish devotion to it the only thing keeping it going?
My body is a volatile litmus test of everything that tosses and swirls in varying currents around me. Because of a long-standing condition, I have become extremely sensitive to the subtlest warnings from the fragile shell attempting to sustain my wandering spirit. Food, therefore, can contribute extreme joy or supreme discomfort.
While I have been trying to win the battle of wills with my body, my appetite for normal food has recently languished. Sensing its need for hydration and efficient distribution of resources, my body has been craving soups and porridges which are easier to process.
On a recent supermarket run, 3A and I bought a large tub of red miso paste each. The label claimed that it was MSG-free, a definite boon for me since I fear I have become increasingly intolerant of MSG. On one of the nights when I was feeling sufficiently well enough to cook, I dug the hefty tub from the fridge for a simple supper.
I had no clear idea of what I wanted to cook except something fast, soupy and hot – real comfort food for the first time I was able to cook in a while. Fishing around my fridge, I pulled together a haphazard gallery of leftover suspects. Broccoli, leftover roasted chicken, silken egg tofu, baby dou miao aka bambino pea shoots, sea kelp, snow peas and shiitake mushrooms. Not a bad haul. I got to work on a pseudo-Japanese-Chinese soup dish which I cornily entitled Miso Confused Soup.
I was still recovering which meant I cooked intuitively and quickly and did not really bother to take notations so if measurements or instructions are a little vague … suck it up.
Miso Confused Soup
½ cup coarsely shredded leftover roasted chicken
About 1 ½ tbsp of red miso paste
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed gently
1 cup broccoli, trimmed into bite-sized florets
1 cup of fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
½ cup sugar snap peas, cut in half
1 handful of sea kelp – soaked in hot water to soften
1 ½ cup baby dou miao
1 tube silken egg tofu, sliced into 1 inch thick discs
1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil and sauté the garlic and onions gently till softened and fragrant
2. Add about 1 ½ litres of water and throw in the sea kelp and bring to the simmer
3. Add the miso paste and bring to boil again before lowering the flame to simmer for about 15 minutes for everything to harmonise and reduce slightly
4. Add the broccoli, sugar snap peas and mushrooms and bring to simmer
5. Start heating a small pan of oil to about 1 ½ -2 inches inch. Make sure it's hot otherwise you'll end up with Goodyear Tyre tofu shotputs instead. When bubbles form around a chopstick when you stick it into the pot, add the discs of tofu to deep fry in a single layer. Fry till golden brown and crispy, remove and drain on a paper towel
6. Add the dou miao to the soup and taste. If too bland, add more miso or a touch of soy sauce. If too salty, add a pinch of sugar and more water.
7. Let the soup simmer for about 8-10 minutes
8. Layer the bottom of a bowl with the chicken shred and ladle over the soup
9. Place the crispy tofu discs on top and eat while it’s hot
You can add noodles to this dish if you desire a more substantial meal. The soup tasted phenomenal the next day but try not to keep longer than overnight.
I think that the red miso paste did have some MSG in it despite its claim otherwise as my body reacted to it immediately after dinner. I found myself constantly thirsty for the next few hours with a slight migraine, which told me I should use less of it next time and rely on other ways to flavour my soup.
Other than that, the soup was very nourishing and healthy despite the deep fried tofu. The bright greens of the soup played up the bright golden hue of the tofu medallions and I think this visual enticement perked up my lagging appetite. The salty miso with the hint of almost fermented beans tempered by the sweetness of the vegetables topped with creamy and eggy tofu were a confluence of familiar flavours with a slight twist. I ate two giant bowls of this soup – a real feat considering how my body kept rejecting food before.
I give my Miso Confused Soup a 8/10 for taste and a 9/10 for health. There’s nothing like comfort food, confused or otherwise.