Wednesday, 14 February 2007

sesame miso soup with tofu, wakame and mushrooms - 白ごまみそ

sesame miso!

A few months ago a man at the natural foods store next to the supermarket handed me a sample cup of hot soup. It looked a little like regular miso shiru, though lighter and more opague, with crumbles of silken tofu. But the smell! It was amazing, as strong and nutty as sesame seeds being ground right under your nose. The flavours of the liquid were rich and salty but perfectly offset by the mild tofu, with the end soup so smooth it was almost creamy. I wanted more.

As I wandered around the supermarket I rehearsed in my head how I would ask for the recipe. tsukurikata o oshiete kudasai? tsukurikata o oshiete kuremasen ka? Tragically, by the time I came out the soup man was gone and my Japanese practise had been for naught.

However, all was not lost. Flicking through the cookbook my sister gave me for Christmas I found a recipe for sesame miso, and so tonight I had a shot at recreating that incredible soup.

The recipe called for sesame seeds but suggested substituting with store bought paste. Since I'd been lusting after a Japanese-style mortar and pestle for quite some time I decided to go and buy one rather than take the easy route. Isn't it pretty?

grind grind grind

Unlike their western cousins, these pottery bowls have unglazed insides with a grooved pattern carved in to aid the grinding, and a wooden handle.

I also added some wakame seaweed and white maitake mushrooms*, along with the silken tofu. The end result was delicious, offering all the sesame punch of the original sample. However, what is tantalizing in an itty bitty paper cup can quickly be too much in a bigger bowl. This is definitely something to have on the side.

It's not as pretty and creamy looking as the original, as I obviously need some practise with my sesame grinding technique. What the recipe describes as a sticky paste never got beyond a dry flour-like texture for me, and there are still a few partially ground seeds floating at the top.

Recipe: Sesame Miso Soup with Tofu - 白ごまみそ
(Adapted from Harumi's Japanese Cooking by Harumi Kurihara)
Serves 4

1/2 cup white sesame seeds or 4-5 tablespoons sesame paste
3 1/2 cups dashi or fish stock.
350 grams silken tofu
4 TBSP miso paste
Dried wakame seaweed
Maitake mushrooms.

  • If using whole sesame, roast the seeds in a pan over medium heat. Remove the pan as soon as your hear the seeds start to 'pop'.

  • Using a mortar and pestle, grind the seeds into a fine dust/paste.

  • Soak the wakame in a bowl of water.

  • Put the stock and mushrooms into a pot and bring to the boil. After a few minutes, add the miso and stir until disolved.

  • Gradually add the sesame paste, stirring gently, and break the tofu into bite size bite sized peices over the pot.

  • Lastly, add wakame, give a final stir and serve in chawan (small rice bowls).

(Slightly off topic, but this page has a great run down on the different mushrooms used in Japanese cooking. Who knew eringi were just funny looking oyster mushrooms?)

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