Pumpkin Garlic Miso Soup with Japanese Mushrooms and Silken Tofu
By Heidi Allison
This light and easy soup is fusion cuisine at its best—the marriage of delicate Japanese miso soup with pumpkin purée, which imparts a strikingly beautiful orange hue to the finished dish, and a hint of fresh garlic, to enhance its savory flavor.
As with all great soups, the foundation for Japanese miso soup lies in its stock. Traditionally, this all-purpose broth is a combination of rehydrated kelp (kombu), which imparts a slightly briny flavor, bonito flakes (dried and smoked skipjack tuna that is shaved into thin flakes), and dried baby sardines, both of which lend complexity and depth. Done in the right proportions, you will not detect a “fishy” taste.
Miso, a fermented soybean paste, is the primary seasoning agent in this soup. Rice, barley and a fungus are added to the soybeans during the fermenting process, and the finished product varies in taste and saltiness depending of the type. Red or “aka” has the strongest flavor and is used in hearty soups, white or ‘shiro” has the shortest fermentation time, a large percentage of rice and a sweet, mild flavor, and yellow or tan miso, which is fermented with barley and a small percentage of rice, is the miso of choice for most soups, glazes and marinades.
In this recipe, tan or yellow miso is used and the kombu is soaked for 30 minutes in hot water, instead of the traditional method of soaking the kelp overnight. The cleanest kelp, i.e. with less chemical residues, is organic kombu, and it’s worth the effort sourcing it. Shiitake and enoki mushrooms increase the umami quality of this dish, and fresh baby spinach is substituted for rehydrated kelp as the green vegetable in the soup.
While any tofu will do, I like the texture of soft, silken tofu in this recipe. Look for the number “1” or “2” on the package if texture is graded by number. And, make sure to add the miso at the end—when the soup has been removed from the heat.
Homemade Dashi stock:
6 cups water
2 6-inch pieces of dried organic kombu
1 package of dried bonito flakes (about 1 oz.)
Heat water to a boil. Add kombu and bonito flakes and stir with a wooden spoon to ensure the kelp is submerged. Take off heat and cover. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
Remove kombu and strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve. Set aside.
Pumpkin Garlic Miso Soup
2 Tbs. of organic, canned pumpkin
1 clove garlic, peeled
4 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and cut into ¼ inch strips
1 package of enoki mushrooms, bottom of stems removed leaving 1 inch
2 oz. silken tofu, cut into ½ inch pieces; about ½ package
4 Tbs. organic canned pureed pumpkin
2 green onion, tops only, cut into thin slivers
¼ cup organic baby spinach
3 Tbs. yellow miso paste
Heat dashi stock in a small pot on medium-high heat till boiling. Add mushrooms, garlic, tofu, and pumpkin. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and take out garlic. Add spinach leaves, and stir in miso paste till it dissolves into the soup. Cover and let sit for 3 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls, top with sliced green onions and serve.