Many different flavorings and garnishes may be added to miso shiru: try using tiny blanched cubes of aburage (fried bean curd), thinly sliced mushrooms, diagonal slices of slender scallion or carrot, slivers of lemon or whatever sounds good to you.
1 1/2 quarts dashi
3 to 4 tablespoons red miso (depending on its strength)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 pound very firm tofu, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
18 mitsuba leaves (trefoil) or fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
1. Bring dashi (see Note) to a bare simmer and whisk in miso until smooth. Add soy sauce and simmer gently (never boil a miso soup because it will lose its delicate flavor and aroma) for 1 minute. Taste for seasoning; add salt if necessary.
2. Place the tofu in 6 soup bowls, and ladle the soup into the bowls. Garnish with mitsuba leaves and serve immediately.
Note: Dashi is the ever-present ingredient that gives Japanese food its distinctive flavor. It's an amber colored, sea-flavored, all-purpose Japanese stock. The powdered product, when mixed with hot water, instantly gives you a very credible version of homemade dashi. It is availabe at Japanese groceries. To make 6 cups of strong dashi, mix together 6 cups of warm water in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons of dashi powder. Heat for 2 minutes stirring well.
Miso soups are always served for breakfast in traditional Japanese homes, and they're often served for lunch and dinner as well. They may be served at the beginning or at the end of a meal. The solids in miso soup are eaten with chopsticks and the remaining liquid is drunk from the bowl; spoons are traditionally not served with Japanese soups. Miso soups (called miso shiru in Japan) are high in protein and contain several digestive enzymes. Many different flavorings and garnishes may be added to miso shiru: try using tiny blanched cubes of aburage (fried bean curd), thinly sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms, very thin diagonal slices of slender scallion, carrots grated or cut into shapes of leaves or blossoms, slivers of lemon, or whatever sounds good to you. This recipe is the austere classic that is served today as part of the dinner at thousands of Japanese restaurants and sushi bars in America. Serves 6