Years ago, when I started a macrobiotic diet, I didn’t know what I was doing (see this post). I was lucky enough to have access to a restaurant that served a macrobiotic plate, called Blind Faith Café in Evanston, Illinois. Without that restaurant, I don’t think I would have stayed on the diet very long. I never had seaweed or miso and I didn’t know what anything macrobiotic was supposed to look or taste like. But they cooked everything deliciously and after eating there every day for weeks, I finally felt confident enough to try cooking macrobiotic on my own.
My absolute favorite dish of theirs was the miso soup. It had lots of chewy wakame (seaweed) and large chunks of tofu that were completely saturated with the salty miso. I couldn’t find a heartier version of miso soup than Blind Faith’s. That is until I came up with mine!
I wanted to take mine a step further and turn it into a main course. Mine is almost more of a stew than a soup. I load it up with extra sea vegetables, bok choy, mushrooms, noodles, and the most decadent way to eat tofu – deep fried! These “deep fried tofu balls” as I like to call them, are available in the refrigerated section of most Asian markets. They usually come in packages of 8 or 9. They absorb the flavor of everything in the soup and explode in your mouth like mini water balloons when chomped into.
The key to making this soup is to have everything cut up ahead of time – and cut very thinly so everything cooks quickly. Once you start cooking this, it goes fast. And it’s best to eat this when freshly made. It will definitely hold overnight in the fridge, but I like it piping hot with the bright colors of the bok choy and carrots.
If you are not familiar with seaweed, it’s actually quite easy to cook. For this soup, I like to use kombu and/or wakame. Kombu is a bit thicker and wakame is very deep green, almost black, in color. Both need to be rehydrated, which only takes about 6 minutes. Another popular seaweed is nori, which is used for making sushi. But it’s very thin and I find it disintegrates in this soup. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as the flavor is great and it thickens the broth nicely. But I like biting into chunks of seaweed, so I stick with kombu and wakame when making hearty soups.
As far as the noodles go, you can use soba, udon, soybean – whatever you like. As I’m trying to cut out grains, I searched for a soba noodle made of 100% buckwheat. (Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat at all – it’s actually related to rhubarb and sorrel.) However, it’s difficult to find soba noodles that are made of 100% buckwheat flour. Most are 95% wheat and 5% buckwheat. The only brand of 100% buckwheat I’ve found is by Eden and is available at Whole Foods. But it’s pricey at $7.99 for an 8 ounce package. I bought a package of buckwheat flour and am determined to learn how to make my own soba noodles from scratch. But in my quest to save time on this particular dish today, I used fresh pre-made soybean noodles.
If you haven’t cooked with miso, it’s a salty, fermented paste usually made from brown or white rice. As I’m trying to go grain free, it’s hard to find a non-rice miso. However, I found an organic miso made of chickpeas by Miso Master sold at Whole Foods. It does have some rice in it, but at least it’s not the main ingredient. Feel free to use whatever you like or can find.
6 cups water
½ sweet onion – cut into thin half-moons
6 ounces mushroom (your choice – I use baby portabellas) – thinly sliced
2 medium carrots – cut thin like dimes
4 cups chopped bok choy
1 ounce dried seaweed (I use both kombu and wakame) – rehydrated and roughly chopped
8-9 deep fried tofu balls – cut into quarters
8 ounces noodles – soba, udon or soybean (cooked per package instructions)
8 tablespoons miso paste
dash of Bragg’s Amino Acids (or soy sauce) to flavor before serving
- Rehydrate seaweed by placing in cold water completely submerged for 6 – 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Chop all vegetables and set aside.
- Cut tofu balls into quarters and set aside.
- In one pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. In a separate pot, cook noodles per package instructions, but set timer about 1 minute before full cooking time.
- Remove 1 cup of plain boiling water and place in a small bowl with the miso paste. Whisk until there are no lumps of miso paste left and it is completely smooth.
- When timer rings, drain noodles and immediately add to the pot of plain boiling water, along with the onions, mushrooms, carrots, seaweed, tofu balls and miso paste. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in bok choy so it is completely covered with liquid. Cover with lid and let stand for 1-2 minutes until bok choy is bright green and has a nice bite to it.
- Serve immediately with a dash of Bragg’s Amino Acids (or soy sauce).