Mar 3, 2015

Soup which you don't get in a restaurant ☆Kabocha and onion Miso soup recipe

Every Japanese restaurant has a typical Miso soup made with tofu and wakame (a kind of seaweed). Many times I find these soups disappointing. They often have no aroma and are over cooked with badly textured wakame. Some people may think this is a Miso soup. Yes, it is. But if you cook Miso soup properly at home, you realize how aromatic and tasty Miso soup really can be.

Miso is a traditional seasoning made from fermenting soybeans, salt and Koji fungus. Miso soup is a popular dish in Japan which provides warmth and nourishment, and which can easily be cooked at home. All what you need is Dashi soup (bonito stock), Miso and your favorite ingredients. Basically everything can be an ingredient--eggs, carrots, spinach, pork, salmon....  There are some common combinations--tofu and wakame, spinach and egg, pork, chinese cabbage and eddible burdock root, Kabocha and onion...etc.
I will introduce this Kabocha and onion combination recipe as it is a common winter Miso soup, and I have some left over Kabocha here in my kitchen.  This is a soup you don't find in Japanese restaurants in the USA.

Both Dashi soup powder and Miso can be found at Asian supermarkets, some big American supermarkets which carry international food, or Amazon. There are three major types of Miso sold in the states, Aka Miso (red Miso), Shiro Miso (white Miso) and Awase Miso (mixtures of different types of Miso). I recommend buying Awase as it is all-purpose.

Low sodium Miso from my home town. It's made from rice and barley.

Trivia: There is a great variety of taste and apperarance of Miso in the different regions of Japan. For example, in the western part of Japan where I grew up, we use Awase Miso containing barley.  You don't find this in the easten part of Japan, including around Tokyo. In Kyoto, Shiro Miso made from rice is most commonly used. Strangely enough, in my hometown, we use Shiro Miso on only one occation---meals served at a wake and funeral. Every time I have Shiro Miso soup at a restaurant or my friend's home, I feel a bit sad.

Kabocha and onion Miso soup.
Sweetness of Kabocha and onion make the soup mild.

Kabocha And Onion Miso Soup Recipe


  • 1 2/3 cup Dashi
  • 3.5oz Kabocha  without seeds
  • 1/4  Small size onion
  • 2" Long green onion (scallion)
  • 1 1/2 - 2tbsp of your favorite Miso

Serves 2

1.  Cut Kabocha 1/4" thick and slice onion into easy-to-eat sizes. Finely chop the green onions.
★Leave the green skin on Kabocha. It is delicious and contains carotene.

2. In a small pan, combine Kabocha, onion and Dashi.

3. Heat at medium low until vegetables are cooked. Reduce heat to low, and dissolve Miso.
★Put a small amount of soup in the ladle and dissolve Miso. Never add Miso directly into the pot.

4. Wait until the soup is just starting to boil. Add green onions and remove from heat.
★Never boil Miso because high heat kills the aroma and beneficial bacteria. 

Mar 1, 2015

Winter-must-have vegetable ☆Nebuka onion

After the last few cold,  gusty, and miserable days, I trudged down to my vegetable garden which is blanketed with a foot of snow. Nebuka onions lie dormant under this snow and are ready to go from my garden to kitchen. Never heard of Nebuka onion? It's a tasty winter-must-have vegetable, and one vegetable that you'll never regret growing.

Nebuka (which means "deep rooted" in Japanese) onion is a kind of Japanese bunching onion, which doesn't develop a bulb (onion). We usually don't use the green leaves but use the long white stalk for cooking. At maturity the stalk is 15-20" long and up to 1" in diameter. The stalk of Nebuka onions are essential to Japanese, Chinese and Korean cooking. They're used for grilling, stir frying and  in traditional winter dishes, such as hot pot and soup. They taste sweet and smooth when cooked and spicy when raw. Therefore we usually use uncooked onions as a small portion of garnish. In Korean cooking, however, there is a raw stalk salad, which makes a use of its spicy characteristic, and goes well with Korean BBQ. The Nebuka onion isn't only a great support actor, but can also be the star, depending on how you cook. Although Nebuka onions are sold in the supermarket all year round in Asia, their prime seasons are fall and winter. When Nebuka onions are exposed to cold temperature, they start retaining sugar in the stalk to avoid freezing. This produces their characteristic  sweet taste.

Under the white blanket.

As the ground was frozen, half of the stalk could not be harvested.

It's a little known fact that the white long stalks of Nebuka onion are "man made".  Commercial growers dig a deep dich to plant then cover and re-cover the stalk with soil 3-4 times as it grows. The stalk isn't exposed to the sun and doesn't photosynthesize, so it becomes white and soft. This unique growing method is not commonly known, even by Japanese. Though Nebuka has the best flavor in winter, they can be an all year round vegetable. They can be harvested at several growing stages, and  used many different ways depends on how tender is the leaf or how long is the white stalk. If you omit the "man made" process, and harvest when they're still tiny, you can use Nebuka just like Scallions (green onions/ spring onions) sold at supermarkets in the states.

The cultivar of Nebuka onion I grow here in northern Pennsylvania is Ishikura Long Winter, which has about a 15-17" white stalk with about 12" long leaves when mature. I bought quality seeds at KITAZAWA SEED CO. They are easy to grow,  resistance pests, the flower attracts bees, and are extremely cold hardy. Here it gets -20F with continuous,deep snow, but they survive without any protection. I'll post more about how to grow Nebuka onions and recipes later.