Last week I spent a fair amount of time reading about ramen. I’ve always wanted to make it, but I find it rather intimidating, which is a shame given its humble origins. The idea is simple enough: a tangle of noodles and vegetables and meat held together in a rich, savory broth. There are so many steps, though: days spent preparing the stock, then the pork, the noodles, and finally a slow cooked egg and vegetables. It made me realize that while I do enjoy long, slow cooking projects, what I love most is their simplicity.
And where homemade ramen is nuanced, detailed and involved, homemade miso soup is straightforward and appealingly simple. The dashi broth that is the anchor for this soup is all of two ingredients: bonito flakes, more delicate than pencil shavings but rich with smoky flavor, and kombu, a dried seaweed. You simmer these together, strain them, mix in a paste of miso, add your vegetables, noodles, and tofu, fish or meat if desired, and you’re set.
Miso Soup with Salmon and Buckwheat Noodles
Yield: 6 servings
6 cups water
1/2 cup packed dried bonito flakes
4″ slice kombu
12 ounces wild Pacific salmon
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
6 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
3 tablespoons white miso
One bunch green onions, white and lighter green parts only, diced
2 baby bok choy, ends removed, sliced
Salt + pepper
Togaroshi or gomasio for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
To make the dashi, heat the 6 cups water and dried kombu in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Add the dried bonito flakes and let sit for a few minutes. Strain and set aside.
Lightly brush the salmon with the toasted sesame oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast, skin side down, for about ten minutes. The fish should be cooked through but tender.
Bring a pot of water to boil for the buckwheat noodles and cook according to directions.
Reheat the dashi over low heat. Remove about one cup of the broth and add the three tablespoons miso paste to this, mashing with a fork to dissolve. Return the miso paste to the pot. Add the bok choy and green onions and stir. Turn off heat.
Ladle the broth into soup bowls. Divide the salmon and the noodles equally among the bowls. Top with togaroshi or gomasio if desired. Serve immediately.
Kimberley Hasselbrink is a food photographer and blogger based in San Francisco. She is the author of the blog The Year in Food, which is framed around a monthly seasonal food guide. Kimberley enjoys unusual produce, strong coffee, road trips and summer nights.