Friday, May 13, 2011

Big Miso Bowl

I like foods that are a hodge-podge of this and that. Yakisoba, that delicious gooey-oily mixture of fried Japanese noodles and veg (minus the usual chicken, as I've mostly stopped eating meat), regularly calls to me from its sizzling iron plate at my favourite ramen joint. I'm a sucker for a pint of Cherry Garcia frozen yogurt, but I'm sadly the kind of girl who can't stop digging for the next cherry or bit of chocolate, and then I realize that the whole tub is gone in one sitting. My morning breakfast, every morning, is a gloppy mess (sounds delicious, doesn't it?) of porridge made from thick-cut oats, cinnamon, pineapple, blueberries, banana, some other chopped fruit (berries, peaches, cherries, pear, apple), yogurt, and ground flax seeds. Alexis and I call it hautemeal.

For the past three or four months, my big miso bowl has been another staple, mostly because it's a) super fast, b) super delicious, c) super easy, and d) super nutritious. While I was studying for my exam, I probably ate it five times a week, for lunch or dinner. When I'm mixed up--exams are looming, the stress of juggling a bunch of projects is getting me down, I'm sick--I get in cooking ruts where I return again and again to the same mixed up dishes. It's just their hodge-podginess that gives these foods lasting appeal despite their constant repetition in my kitchen rotation: even if I make the same thing thirty times, it never turns out the same way twice.

The flexibility and adaptability of this recipe (I hesitate to even call it that) means that the directions for making it are similarly flexible and adaptable. I can't account for every variation on this that I've made over the last few months, nor can I predict what leftover container of this or almost-empty freezer bag of that you might have lurking in your fridge or freezer, but I can suggest general quantities and ideas of ingredients that I like to include. Just don't make the mistake that I did one night of shaving some purple heirloom carrot into the broth with a vegetable peeler--that is, unless you like magenta soup.

Big Miso Bowl Serves 1 very generously


2 tbsp miso, any variety (I particularly like dashi miso, which has Japanese dashi seasoning already added, although it's saltier than pure miso)
1/3 cup medium-firm tofu, cubed (or thawed frozen cooked shrimp, or shelled edamame, or leftover fish or seafood)
3 tbsp dried wakame, arame, or nori seaweed, roughly broken
4-5 fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms (the dried ones are significantly cheaper at my local health food store than any fresh I've found, and I never have to worry about them going bad; they also flavour the broth beautifully)
1 cup assorted raw vegetables, cut into bite sized pieces or thinly sliced (good options include red pepper, carrot, snow peas, beansprouts, bok choy, other mushrooms, water chestnuts, burdock root, green beans)
1/2 cup cooked soba noodles, udon noodles, or rinsed and drained shirataki noodles (which I love because they don't require cooking), optional
A soft-boiled egg, cut in half, optional
Shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice powder), gochujang, or chili-sesame oil to taste


Put the kettle on to boil and get out a big bowl--think a noodle bowl from a Japanese restaurant.

Plop your miso paste into the bottom of the bowl, and when the water from the kettle is hot (but not yet boiling), tip in enough that you can whisk the miso and water together to get out any lumps. Put the kettle back on to finish boiling.

Add all of the other ingredients, starting with the tofu, then the seaweed and dried mushrooms, then the vegetables and noodles.

When the kettle has come to a boil, pour over enough boiling water to barely submerge your vegetables, making sure that heavier ingredients are weighing down the dried mushrooms, which have a tendency to float but need to be submerged to rehydrate.

Let sit for five minutes, covered, so that the vegetables can heat through, the mushrooms and seaweed can rehydrate, and you can pour yourself a drink. Don't leave it for too long, or you might have to reheat it in the micro, which I sometimes do if I get distracted. Stir gently so you don't break up the tofu, set your egg on top, season with a sprinkle of shichimi, a blob of gochujang, or a squirt of chili oil, and dig in. I don't often finish all of the broth, but I always hunt down the last bit of tofu or vegetable--a good habit here, but a bad one when it comes to Cherry Garcia...


  1. Mel, this looks so yummy! I can see how it would be a good comps staple. I might have to steal the idea (I won't say recipe;) and use it while I do my comps studying in London this summer :)

  2. Thanks, Katie! It's cheat's cooking--not much harder than making a cup of tea--and keeps me from eating scrambled eggs 24/7.