I’m writing this up not because I think it is anything novel or authentic (it’s not), but for two other quite different reasons. First, I want to remind myself how easy this kind of soup is, given the usual contents of my pantry and fridge. The only things here that I don’t always have on hand are the steamed butternut and the silken tofu, both left over from the laksa we made last night.
Secondly, I was struck by how thoroughly this soup held my attention while I was eating it. Many of the soups I eat are pureed or at least relatively homogeneous. This one is very different. It’s full of bits and pieces of things of varied sizes, shapes and textures, that must be handled in different ways – the broth is spooned up, the tofu nudged onto the spoon and brought to the mouth, the noodles fished for with chopsticks and slurped, the pumpkin and mushrooms held between the chopsticks while bites are taken. When I eat this kind of soup, my mind doesn’t drift, but stays focussed on the food and the action and sensations of eating. This is something that I think is worth cultivating.
3 cups water or light stock
2 heaped dessert spoons miso paste, or to taste
a dash of tamari
Things to go in the soup
120 g soba noodles, cooked, drained and rinsed
6 small pieces butternut squash, steamed till tender
10 small cubes silken tofu
6 dried shiitake, rehydrated in hot water
4 pieces dried black fungus, rehydrated in hot water
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves
First make the broth. Bring the water or stock to a boil, then remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix a little of the hot water with the miso until it thins out, then add this to the rest of the water. Mix, taste, and add more miso if necessary. The broth is often improved by a scant dash of tamari at this point, too.
Into each of two large bowls, put half the cooked noodles, pumpkin, tofu, shiitake, black fungus and spinach leaves. Gently pour the miso broth over, half into each bowl. Sprinkle with coriander leaves, a few spots of sesame oil, and a pinch of chili flakes. Eat at once.