Tibetan Miso Soup

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Hello soon to be miso-soup-making gurus.

You probably know miso soup is delicious. But did you know that it is a fermented soup with healing properties that is extremely popular in Japan and China and that is obtained by fermenting soybeans using a grain called “koji” and salt (which explains its saltiness, therefore, for those of you closely watching your sodium intake – be aware that this soup can contain a fair deal of sodium). In fact, its unique fermentation process has been elevated to a state of fine craftsmanship in traditional Japan.

And you’d better believe this soup is healthy.

When unpasteurized, miso is “alive”, meaning it contains probiotics like lactobacillus bacteria, which aid the immune system and digestion. Moreover, 1 tbsp contains 3 grams of protein and 6 grams of carbohydrates, which is a nice macronutrient balance.

This soup is perfect for those nights when, as destiny has it, you’re feeling lazy to the exponent couch potato. Miso soup, by its very nature, is instant. Simple mathematics. If my calculations are correct, miso paste + H2O = miso soup. In fact, next time you want a quick snack, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of miso paste to some boiling water (you may want to add cilantro, lime juice, chopped ginger or whatever else for extra flavour, but know that just the miso and water by themselves are great) and sip on some warm and cozyfying soup. Plus, this soup is more than suitable for the Montreal weather we’ve been getting lately: windy, cloudy, grey and cold. Very “meh” weather, much to my chagrin.

Legend has it that hundreds of years ago, Buddhist monks in the mountains of Tibet noticed tiny red berries growing behind a well. They gave them a try, liked what they tasted and decided to include these berries in their daily diet. As it turns out, the monks that ate these berries outlived other monks and the conclusion they drew from this was that these healthy berries contributed to longevity. Now, legends are, by no means, scientific proof of anything, but I thought I’d include this tidbit anyway. The “fountain of youth” claims are not scientifically supported, but if you see goji’s nutritional information below, you’ll see that there may be some truth to some of the claims about them. 🙂

Goji berries have been grown in China, Tibet and Mongolia for ages. In these cultures, they are believed to boost your immune system, circulatory system, support liver and kidney health, improve vision and be fantastic for your skin (thanks to the beta-carotene).

Goji berries also go by the name of wolfberries and look like “scrunched up” berries, when dried. They are considered both a fruit and an herb, which explains their herb-like aftertaste. From a nutritional standpoint, these berries contain 18 amino acids, including the 11 essential amino acids (making them a source of “complete protein”, though the total protein content of goji berries is relatively low), vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin C, zinc, selenium, potassium and fiber. Gojis also contain beta carotene (converted to retinol and essential for vision),  zeaxanthin, lutein and cryptoxanthin, all of which are known to be beneficial for eye health. Plus, they have a high ORAC value, making them a top notch antioxidant (with five times the antioxidant capacity of prunes).

That’s my sales pitch! I could sell ice to an eskimo, right? 😉

Please note: For those of you who are on blood thinners or take diabetic medication, you may have adverse reactions to these berries so always speak to your doctor prior to eating these.

To give this soup a little more sustenance, add some cubed tofu.

Traditionally, this soup contains tofu, miso paste and seaweed, quite simply. This time around though, I wanted to get a little fancy, so I threw some superfoods into the mix for an interesting twist. The end result is bursting with savoury Japanese flavour. Tibetan monks would be all over this soup.

I could live off this soup. Or should I say, I wish I could live off this soup. 😉

Prepare to warm up!

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Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp. organic miso paste
  • 3 tbsp. tamari sauce (gluten-free if necessary)
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 small-medium onion
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 3 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp. chaga mushroom powder (optional)
  • Firm tofu, cut into small cubes (150 grams – also optional)

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Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and allow soup to continue to cook (about 20-30 minutes – depending upon whether you want your vegetables to be softer or more crisp), stirring every so often, until vegetables reach desired crunchiness.
  3. Portion into bowls and serve.
  4. “Miso hungry” time.

Miso impressed with how well this turned out!

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