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Miso soup

Miso Soup (misoshiru in Japanese) is a traditional Japanese soup consisting of a stock called "dashi" into which is dissolved softened miso. Various solid ingredients like wakame seaweed, tofu, and mushrooms are then added to make the finished soup. The soup is usually served in lacquer bowls with lids and drunk directly from the bowl. Solid ingredients are eaten with chopsticks Different types of miso produce distinctive soups.

The most common dashi soup stocks for miso soup are made of niboshi (dried baby sardines) or kelp with katsuobushi (thin shavings of dried and smoked bonito fish). Sometimes, however, kelp or shiitake vegetarian dashi stocks are used. Outside of Japan, American or European style miso soup is sometimes made by dissolving miso in a western vegetable stock. The stock might include ingredients such as leek, onion, carrot, potato and radish.

According to Japanese custom, the solid ingredients are chosen to reflect the seasons and to provide contrasts of color, texture, and flavor. Thus leek and tofu, a strongly flavored ingredient mixed with a delicately flavored ingredient, are considered a good combination. Ingredients that float, like wakame seaweed, and ingredients that sink, like potatoes, are also good combinations. No two solid ingredients should have the same color, texture, or flavor. That way, all the ingredients will contribute uniquely to the soup. Ingredients range from mushrooms to potatos, from seaweeds to green onions, and from shrimp or fish to grated daikon.

In Japan, miso and dashi are heated together nearly to boiling in the making of the soup, but some experts recommend that the miso be added only when the dashi has cooled a little--thus keeping the miso biologically active.

In Japan, miso soup and white rice make up the traditional Japanese breakfast, and so most Japanese people eat miso soup at least once a day. The soup has been a favorite of commoners and royalty alike for many centuries. Most westerners find the sweet and salty soup appealing.

If pork is added to miso soup, it is called butajiru (or tonjiru), meaning "pork soup."

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