This week, even Southern California felt a tiny bit more brisk and temperatures finally dropped from the 70-degree days earlier this week.  Working at home and feeling a bit chilled, I felt like I wanted a meal that would warm my body and soul simultaneously.  I had just been reading my friend and fellow blogger Eric Gower‘s post on soba noodles, and nothing sounded better than a big bowl of steaming Japanese noodle soup.

You’ve probably seen the boxes of Instant Miso Soup at Trader Joe’s.  I decided to use that as my soup base, adding shittake mushrooms, spaghetti noodles, garlic, shredded carrots, and green onion.  If you have udon or soba noocles, of course you can use those, but plain spaghetti will do the job just fine.  The fresh shittake mushrooms are the star here for me, turning up the volume of the umami-rich flavor of the miso soup. 

The layering of these flavors is what really hits the spot.  Like sweet, sour, salty and bitter, umami is one of the basic tastes, very popular and well understood in Asian cooking.  It’s described as a savoriness.  Umami-rich food is all around us – mushrooms, many cheeses, olives, capers, even bacon.  Umami layers with other flavor sensations, enhancing them or contrasting with them.  For example, that’s the reason so many things (even sweet flavors) taste better with bacon!

Miso Noodle Soup

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (1/2 pkg) spaghetti noodles
  • 2 packets Instant Miso Soup
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or 2 cubes frozen Crushed Garlic
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (available pre-shredded at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 (3.5 oz) pkg fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced (or substitute 1 bag TJ’s Mixed Wild Mushroom Medley, hydrated per
  • instructions)
  • 1-2 stalks green onion, sliced lengthwise into strips or chopped.

Instructions

  1. Boil noodles according to package directions, omitting the salt in the boiling water (the miso soup has plenty for me).  Cook until al dente.  Drain, rinse and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, empty the contents of the soup packets into 4 cups water.  Add garlic and bring to a simmer.
  3. Add carrots and mushrooms.  Simmer for a few minutes until mushrooms look tender and cooked.
  4. Divide noodles between two bowls, ladle half of the soup over the noodles in each bowl and top with green onions.
  5. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 as a main meal or serves 4 smaller portions

Notes

If you are vegetarian, this soup may seem like a great option at first glance, but traditional miso soup is not vegetarian. Miso soup ingredients include dashi which is a stock that contains a bit of fish flakes, and the TJ ingredients concur.  You can’t really taste a fishiness, but  the dashi is there and adds the umami-rich taste of miso soup.  If you want a vegetarian version, you can make miso soup by stirring miso paste into a vegetarian broth, or buy vegetarian miso soup packets at other grocers.