Many years ago when I was first learning about my food allergies and occasionally making uninformed mistakes, my husband took me to a Japanese steak house for a birthday dinner. First they served a lovely broth as an appetizer while we waited for our seat at the grill. It was quite tasty, and I was told that it was miso soup. At the grill, I asked that the chef to cook my food without the soy sauce, since I was allergic. Little did I know that the odd stare, whispers, and watchful care I got for the next hour were because they were worried I would keel over any second. You see, that day I learned that common miso paste is made from mostly soy beans and wheat! Thankfully, I did not die from that encounter, but I was ill for several days. Lesson learned.
Imagine my surprise when I came across Chickpea and Adzuki Miso somewhere along the way. They contain no soy and use rice in the place of wheat. I don’t remember where I learned about these specialty ingredients, but I have enjoyed them ever since. I only have experience with The South River Miso Company, but there is another chickpea miso from Miso Master that is also on the market. If you try Miso Master, leave a comment here to let me know your thoughts.
South River only ships to my neck of the woods after November 1st. Miso is a naturally fermented product that doesn’t ship well in the heat. That makes this product seasonal for my household. The shelf life of good miso is long when kept in the refrigerator, so I still have a bit leftover from last year’s order.
I like miso, because it gives vegan soups a delicate flavored broth with natural probiotics included. Nondairy probiotic sources are hard to come by without spending a pretty penny at the store. Nevertheless, be careful if you can have soy and find a miso paste at the store. If the miso has been pasteurized, the probiotics have been killed, but the flavor will remain. That is also why you should add miso paste to your homemade soup only after it has cooled some. If you don’t cool the soup, you will kill all those helpful little creatures.
Another interesting fact about miso is its tasty by-product, tamari. Tamari is the liquid that accumulates while miso ferments. You might be most familiar with the pasteurized tamari counterpart, soy sauce. South River Miso sells limited quantities of the tamari from their vats of chickpea and adzuki miso. Unfortunately it is out of stock right now. If you can catch it in stock, you are in for a treat!
Traditionally miso is a thin soup with few additives served as a side dish or appetizer, but my family prefers it as a hearty meal. The rule of thumb I use when creating a miso soup is about 2-3 Tsp of miso paste per bowl of soup you serve, but you can adjust for your tastes.
If you can’t find a kabocha squash, a butternut squash or a small pie pumpkin would work well. Don’t forget to have the kids pick out all the seeds to roast for a snack.
Wakame is a sea vegetable that is traditionally used in miso soups. One small package will last you for a long time. It expands when hydrated, so a little goes a long way. I learned that the hard way the first time when I made wakame with miso instead of miso with wakame. If you can’t find wakame, a little chopped spinach would work nicely.
I already had my adzuki beans cooked and frozen in my freezer, so don’t forget to soak and cook them first if you don’t have any in reserve.
Adzuki and Kabocha Miso Stew
2 quarts of water (add more if needed)
1 inch chunk of ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion thinly sliced
3 carrots, sliced
1 kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 cups cooked adzuki beans
1 tsp wakame, soaked in cold water and drained
1/2 cup adzuki or chickpea miso paste, or a little more if you like
salt to taste, only a little
In your soup pot, pour the water, garlic, ginger, onion, carrots, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer while you cut up the kabocha squash. I promise (unless you are a wizard with knife skills), once you get that done, it will be the perfect time to add the squash to the pot. Just be sure that the onions are translucent and the soup smells great
Once the squash is in the pot, simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the squash is fork tender. Add the Adzuki beans when the squash is almost cooked through.
Add the wakame, remove from the heat, and allow the soup to cool for 15 minutes or so before you add the miso paste. Otherwise you will kill off all those probiotics.
Adjust miso and salt to taste. Serve and enjoy.