Miso Soup ranks high up in my list of comfort food. It's easy to prepare, it's nourishing, and rich in flavorful umami. What's not to like?
I used to be intimidated by it. Most recipes call for making dashi - a soup stock made with bonito flakes and konbu. Two more exotic ingredients, and just to make the soup stock! That was until the proprietor of a Korean grocery taught me a simplified version.
Instead of bonito flakes, she taught me how to use dried fish from her store. They seem like big fat dilis (dried anchovies) to me. Simply pop off the heads and take out the stomach part containing the entrails. Chop into fine pieces.
Drop in a pan (I use a Korean ceramic vessel), add some wakame (dried seaweed), and a tablespoon of miso per bowl of water. That's it! Optional ingredients are onion sprigs and tofu.
It's a bit less refined than the Japanese version - but good nonetheless.
I've taken to adding chopped kimchi to this mix, plus whatever left-over steamed vegetables I have in the refrigerator. Some soba noodles oftentimes end up in the mix, too. I add an egg when everything comes to a rolling boil, then turn down the heat. The ingredients are now pantry staples - I have Miso paste in the freezer, and dried seaweed in the cupboard. I've also discovered this powder in a Japanese grocery. It's granular - much like fish food (...) and it amps up the flavor in the broth.
My recipe is by no means authentic to either the Korean or the Japanese versions - but it's fast, cheap, easy, made with few ingredients, and I have dinner on the table in 10 minutes flat. And quite a good one at that.