Tasting the Changing Seasons with a Dab of Miso

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Miso soup with spring vegetables

I love the produce section at the supermarket with its bright colors and seasonal changes, but cooking such products, on the other hand, is not my forte. As I’m not used to preparing certain vegetables, especially seasonal ones, I frequently feel a little out of my depth.

Chef and fermentation meister Misa Enomoto suggested that if I can’t think of how to cook them, I should just put them in miso soup.

She said her family enjoys eating seasonal foods and miso soup every day.

“Miso soup tastes great all year round, regardless of what’s in it,” she said. “Feel free to use seasonal ingredients.”

Enomoto shared her miso soup recipe using green asparagus and shin-tamanegi newly harvested onions, which are onions that are immediately shipped after harvesting and do not undergo a drying process.

Miso soup with vegetables

Ingredients (2 servings):

  • ½ shin-tamanegi onion
  • 2 asparagus spears
  • 2 cups dashi
  • 1 tbsp miso

  • Directions:

    1. Cut the shin-tamanegi onion into 1-centimeter-thick wedges. Use a peeler to remove the skin of the bottom third of the asparagus, then cut it diagonally into bite-size pieces.

    2. Boil dashi stock over medium heat in a pot. When it comes to a boil, add the onions and cook for one minute, then add the asparagus and cook for another minute.

    3. Lower the heat and dissolve the miso.

    Seasonal vegetables should be cut into relatively large pieces to maintain their crunchiness and aroma. Also, be careful not the overcook the vegetables. The slight saltiness of the miso soup accentuates the fresh flavor of the ingredients, reminding me again of how well miso goes with everything.

    Miso can taste very different depending on what type of koji rice malt is used and where it was made. Different types of miso can be used or even mixed together if the dish calls for it.

    “It adds a rich flavor to dishes, making them tastier,” Enomoto said.

    When used in stir-fry, miso can be made into a sauce by dissolving it in various condiments.

    Enomoto shared a quick stir-fry recipe using spring cabbage, pork and ginger miso. The dish is so simple to make, it can be whipped together when you don’t have a lot of extra time.

    I came home at 8 p.m. and my hungry son, 12, was waiting for dinner. I tore apart the soft cabbage leaves with my hands, and the dish was ready to eat in about 10 minutes. The rich and salty flavor goes well with rice. We ate our seasonal vegetables in simple dishes, creating stress-free meals.

    Stir-fried spring cabbage, pork

    The Yomiuri Shimbun
    Spring cabbage and pork with ginger miso sauce

    Ingredients (2 servings):

    • 200 grams sliced pork
    • 200 grams spring cabbage
    • ½ shin-tamanegi onion
    • 1 tsp oil
    • Miso sauce
    • 1½ tbsp miso
    • 2 tsp sake
    • 2 tsp mirin sweet cooking sake
    • 1 clove of ginger

    • Directions:

      1. Cut the shin-tamanegi onion into 5-millimeter-thick slices and the cabbage into 4- to 5-centimeter squares. Mix all the condiments to make the miso sauce.

      2. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to a pan over medium heat and cook the onions and pork. Remove the pork from the pan when it changes color.

      3. Add another teaspoon of oil over medium heat to stir-fry the cabbage. When the cabbage softens, put the pork back in, add the miso sauce and stir.