One of my favorite items to order in Japanese restaurants is miso soup. My second favorite is nabeyaki soup with soba, or buckwheat, noodles. You know, the one that's served in the iron pot with noodles and all sorts of other tasty items? So, I set out to identify what elements to combine to create such a thing.
This recipe is a basic buckwheat noodle in a miso broth with some classic Japanese seasonings. All sorts of additional ingredients may be added: sliced chicken or pork, seafood, other vegetables. Really, your imagination is the limit of what you think would taste good with these Japanese-style flavors. I've made several suggestions describing my methods and ingredients; I encourage you to be creative in what you put in your soup and how you do it. And, by all means, please share your experiences! Enjoy...
Step 1: Preparation -- the Pot and the Water
The first step is the one I always seem to forget until everything else is prepped, so I've made it explicit: Set the water on to boil first! I can usually complete most of the prep for the rest of the ingredients before the water boils; think of it as a challenge...
For 4 servings, use 8 cups of water.
I use an enameled cast iron pot with a tight fitting lid because it holds the heat so well and doesn't cool down so much when adding ingredients. Any pot will do, but I think the process goes faster once the water has come to a boil. The enameled cast iron makes cleanup easy, too.
Step 2: Preparing the Ingredients
Ingredients (enough for 4 servings):
8 cups water
6 oz. dry soba noodles
1/2 to 3/4 oz. shaved ginger, depending on taste
3 oz. tofu, cubed small
2 large scallions, finely sliced
1/3 sheet seaweed (nori), cut into small cubes
1-2 cups shredded white cabbage (optional)
4-5 sliced mushrooms (optional, not pictured)
2 oz. white miso (shiromiso), slurried in warm water
Soy sauce or tamari to taste
Measuring ingredients: I use a kitchen scale to weigh ingredients whenever possible. This is much easier if the scale has a tare function: Place an empty dish on the scale and tare to reset to zero. Then add the ingredient until the desired measurement is reached. All measurements shown in ounces were measured using a scale. Mine is digital good up to 5 pounds and shows tenths of an ounce, as well as grams. It's actually a postal scale I bought at Staples years ago!
Ginger: I freeze the ginger root to help it last longer. It also makes it very easy to shave off as much or as little as needed with a vegetable peeler. Peel off the skin, then just shave off thin slices until you have enough. No additional chopping needed, it incorporates into the soup very nicely. I really like a gingery soup, so I use a lot...
Scallions: I Like scallions, so this amount sometimes changes. As a variation, try substituting a fresh scape for one of the scallions when they're in season. Scapes are the early flower stalk of hard-necked garlic plants. I grow garlic in my garden, and fresh scapes are a real treat!
Nori: I use "yaki nori" or dried toasted seaweed sheets. It is essentially sushi roll wrappers, easily found in many food stores as sheets in which to roll maki. I use about a 1/3 of a sheet, and cut strips about 1/4" or 3/8" wide, then cut the strips into squares.
Cabbage: White cabbage is great in this soup and adds a nice, different texture. I tried purple cabbage to see how it would work, but it turned the broth an odd color and didn't have as nice a flavor as the white...
Mushrooms: White mushrooms work well, as do crimini (aka baby bella) mushrooms. Again, different texture, more flavor. Use whichever ones you like, or just skip them.
Miso: I have found that white miso has a mild, tangy taste. I have tried red miso, but I think the flavor is too strong for my taste. Use what tastes good to you! I mix the miso in warm water with a fork to create a slurry. This helps to integrate the miso into the soup much more easily.
Step 3: Assembling the Soup
Add the ingredients in steps, and let the water come back to a light boil after each addition.
1) Once the water is boiling, add the soba noodles and give them a stir
2) Optional -- Stir the shredded cabbage
3) Add the scallions, tofu, ginger and nori and stir to incorporate each ingredient well
These steps should take only a few minutes total.
Step 4: Poaching the Egg
Once the pot comes back to a boil, turn down heat to a high simmer. Crack the egg(s) and gently add them to the simmering broth. Usually the egg will sit on top of the noodles, but sometimes they will slip beneath the surface. Just keep track of there they were placed because you will want to pull them out and set them aside for serving. I've found that cracking the egg into a small bowl first and then gently pouring into the broth helps keep the egg on top.
Cover the pot with a cracked lid to reduce the chance of boiling over. Leave the pot simmering until the egg is poached to your liking. I usually leave them in for 4-5 minutes. This cooks the white thoroughly and leaves the yolk somewhat runny. Cook to your liking.
Step 5: Serving the Soup
Once the egg is poached, remove them gently and set them aside. They will be placed on top of the bowl before serving.
Turn off the heat add the miso slurry, and stir it in well to fully incorporate it. Miso is sensitive to heat, and boiling it reduces the nutritional value, so I like to add it just before serving. This gives all the salty, sweet, earthy, fruity, and savory miso flavor and maintains the vitamin and mineral goodness.
To serve, ladle a bunch of noodles and broth onto a soup bowl, and place the poached egg on top. Season with soy sauce or tamari to taste. Then sit back and enjoy a really yummy, filling and tasty bowl of miso soup with soba noodles!