Who doesn’t love a warm bowl of soup? I grew up on grandma’s chicken soup with noodles, tomato soup with fish on Fridays, grandad’s thick cabbage stew, and mom’s cream soups that got popular sometimes at the end of nineties: mushrooms, broccoli, garlic, pumpkin, or pea – I loved them all. Growing up, soup was an everyday thing, and a lunch wasn’t considered as such if there wasn’t a steaming pot of soup.
Once I grew up and started cooking, I decided I didn’t have time or need for an everyday bowl of soup. For much of my twenties, I didn’t think that an everyday bowl of soup was worth the hassle – chopping, long cooking time, blending. Soup or stew were a once-in-a-week or even once-in-two weeks thing. Only recently, after an extremely lucky event of me traveling to Japan, a new kind of soup entered my culinary world: miso. Simple to make, very nourishing, and very tasty.
What Is Miso And How To Make Miso Soup?
Miso is a cultured and fermented Japanese paste made of soybeans, rice or rye grain, salt and koji (steamed rice grain) and used as the base for soups and sauces, or as a condiment in salads and pickled vegetables. A literal translation from Japanese would be “fermented beans”. The intensity of flavor depends of the length of fermentation, ranging from mild and sweet to rich and salty. As a staple of a Japanese diet, it could be found in the household pantries all around Japan and as a first course in the Japanese restaurants around the world.
Miso soup is usually simply made with water and topped with scallions or noodles, vegetables, tofu, boiled eggs, dried mushrooms, seaweed, or fish, fish cakes, sliced beef – the options are vast, and up to one’s taste. I like to make mine with a bit of boiling water and dried porcini and black trumpets. To me, it feels comforting and nourishing, and I grew quite fond of its umami flavor.
Is Miso Soup Good for Your Health?
Rich in proteins, beneficial bacteria and known for its antioxidant properties, miso is believed to be beneficial to health. However, as it has high levels of sodium, it should be used in moderation if you follow a low-salt diet. Otherwise, miso soup can:
- Improve gut health. Eating fermented or “cultured” foods is one of the best ways to obtain your daily dose of probiotic bacteria and enzymes, which is important for a healthy gut. Not only are they improving digestion, but also boost immunity and can help to fight allergies and infections.
- Support brain health. Recent studies on gut-brain connection are pointing out the impact of diet, and particularly, the intake of fermented foods on cognitive health and its benefits for those suffering of anxiety and depression, while disruptions in microbial populations have been connected with several neurological disorders.
- Increase vitamin levels. This study has shown that the microbiota in your gut produces a variety of nutrients, including fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin K. By improving the balance of your gut microbiota through the consumption of fermented foods, you may also improve the vitamin levels in your body.
And lastly, let’s not forget the benefits that a warm bowl of soup after a long day can have on your mental state: at least to me, it’s synonymous with a feeling of home, warmth, and calmness.