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Miso soup isn’t vegetarian?! September 8, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , ,

Silence Dogood here. I was having lunch with friends at the lovely Tokyo Japanese Restaurant in scenic Skippack, PA last weekend. As we placed our orders, our server informed us that the lunches came with salad and miso soup. Then he turned to me, distressed, since I’d asked if the “volcano tofu” I’d ordered was vegetarian. “The miso soup isn’t vegetarian,” he said apologetically.

“Why, does it have meat in it?” The miso soup I was familiar with was extremely simple: Hot water with some miso paste (fermented, aged soy, barley, or rice) stirred in and topped with chopped scallions, sometimes adding diced tofu and seaweed to give the soup more body. “No,” he replied. “But it isn’t vegetarian.”

Needless to say, I passed on soup that day. But I was determined to get to the bottom of this. Rushing to Google, I found that Wikipedia had the answer at hand: Traditional Japanese miso soup, such as that served at this lovely Japanese restaurant, includes dried baby sardines and shavings of dried and smoked bonito, also known as skipjack tuna, in its stock. 

Whew! Thank heavens the server was forthright enough to insist on this so I didn’t end up eating it. I’d never have forgiven myself. According to Wikipedia, vegetarians can substitute dried shiitake mushrooms, seaweed (kombu, dried kelp), even veggie stock to give the miso soup more flavor.

The basic recipe for miso soup I found at Allrecipes.com also included fish, in the form of dashi granules, which are added to make the soup stock. According to the recipe, “Dashi is a basic stock used in Japanese cooking which is made by boiling dried kelp (seaweed) and dried bonito (fish).” 

Yowie zowie. Food for thought, for sure. I know miso itself is extremely good for you and add it to lots of dishes, but fortunately I’ve seldom had miso soup. Hopefully I’ve managed to avoid inadvertently consuming meat. Now that I know more about miso soup, I’ll be sure to ask anytime it’s offered.

            ‘Til next time,




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