This miso soup is almost a stew, thick with slices of pungent ginger root, dried shiitake mushrooms and dark leafy greens surrounded by a savory broth. The white miso paste which is the basis of the broth is mildly sweet and not too salty; rice vinegar and rice wine add a subtle sweet- sour dimension.
Ginger root is classified as one of the most warming herbs in the traditional Chinese herbal pharmacopeia. Shiitake mushrooms are strengthening and beneficial for healthy immune function. Together these two ingredients transform this soup into a fortifying meal for cold winter days.
The recipe can be made in ten minutes or less. It does not require precise measurements but the quantities noted below will yield two generous servings.
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
3 cups fresh water
1/3 cup thinly sliced leek
1/3 cup thinly sliced celery
3-4 slices fresh ginger root
1+ 1/2 tablespoons white miso paste
1- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin rice wine*
2-3 handfuls baby lacinato kale leaves (or baby arugula, spinach or other leafy green)
1. Place mushrooms in a ceramic bowl. Boil about half the water and pour over the mushrooms. Cover the bowl with a plate and allow mushrooms to rehydrate while you slice the vegetables.
2. Slice ginger root into slabs and then into matchsticks. Thinly slice the celery and leek.
3. When cool enough to handle, remove mushrooms from bowl one at a time and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Reserve the soaking water.
4. Slice the mushrooms with a sharp knife. If the stems are tough, slice as thinly as possible; they will soften with further cooking.
5. Place the sliced vegetables into a pot, add soaking liquid and remaining water. Cover and simmer gently over a low to medium flame for five or six minutes. Add more water if there isn't enough to just cover the vegetables.
6. Place miso paste, rice vinegar, mirin and a few tablespoons of broth in a small bowl and stir until fairly smooth. Add mixture to the soup.
7. Stir the greens into the soup, cover and turn off heat. Allow to rest for three or four minutes until greens wilt. Taste broth and adjust seasoning. Reheat the soup very gently before serving but do not boil.
*Note: Mirin rice wine is a traditional Japanese product; it is a versatile staple to have on hand and is commonly available in natural food markets.