Vegan Miso Noodle Soup

16 Nov

Continuing down the vegan path: Miso Noodle Soup from Green Kitchen Stories.

There are many an Asian-inspired dish I have been drawn to, but have been apprehensive to try out because I don’t have many of the key ingredients readily available in my pantry/fridge. Well this recipe proved to me that I shouldn’t let this get in my way (look out, Asian world of cooking!). For me, there are certain types of food that I have to be in the mood for (sushi being one of them), and also types of food that once it’s in my head I NEED TO HAVE IT IMMEDIATELY (I’m looking at you, Indian food). This type of soup is a combination of the two. I took my inspiration from the Vietnamese noodle soup called “Pho” (pronounced “Pha” with a ? sound at the end. Although, pronouncing it this way–the correct way–WILL turn you into “that guy“).

Pho is served at the temperature of the Sun (sorry to get all scientific on you) and then they place thinly sliced pieces of raw steak in, and the broth actually cooks it. It’s served with a side of lime, jalapeños, bean sprouts, cilantro, and all that good stuff. I usually put everything in. And by usually, I mean the 2 times I’ve had it.

Wow, I can’t believe I actually found this picture! This is a bowl of Pho I had in San Francisco in April of 2011. We went for a 4 year old’s birthday because “she’s just really into curry”. It was my first time. I’ve never been the same since. Nice lens cap in the bottom left corner.

So, again, this was my inspiration for this soup (or at least I had it in mind). Now I know there are delicate intricacies involved with the different countries and regions of Asian cuisine (or any cuisine for that matter), and Miso soup isn’t the same as Pho, it’s not even from the same country, but a girl can dream can’t she? To steal a recent Facebook quote “it’s a culinary house of cards” (I know, what a great quote).

I was excited that I found this recipe, and it fit into my vegan-escapades for the week. I started making a shopping list, and realized a lot of what I needed (veggies…lots of veggies) were things I would normally buy. The “house of the rising sun” ingredients weren’t too far out there either. Ginger and a stalk of lemongrass. You can find these in basically any grocery store. And if you’re just buying the amount you need for one dish, it comes out to pennies (well, maybe a combination of dimes and quarters). Miso paste is also available and lots of “specialty” stores like Co-Ops, or, you know, any store in Ann Arbor. Lastly were soba noodles, which, again, were not hard to find. I decided to add some bean sprouts to the mix as well. The bonus: my roommate has a bottle of Siracha sitting on top of the fridge, just waiting to be used in homemade Miso soup, how lucky for me.

I wanted to use the lemongrass as either a magic or maestro’s wand.
It had the perfect weight and density to it.

Funny story behind the “photo shoot” for the image: my roommate Max was selling his tv on craigslist this evening, and he was going to be at work while they wanted to make the “transaction” so I became the high-rolling business dealer. “Oh no, now I can’t go running in the dark and cold” I thought. So I began this soup with the time of 7:30 in mind for them to arrive. Well RIGHT after I finished this particular shot, I get a call, and they’re outside. 25 minutes early. Lovely. I let them in, and they just look around at my camera and tri-pod set up next to my lap top (which is blaring Les Miserables because the trailer for the upcoming movie has affected me PROFOUNDLY), with carrot peels, garlic skins, and muddy leek stems strewn about the kitchen (the main door to our apartment opens to our kitchen, hence the culinary welcome). But they were only there for about 8 minutes, boom, transaction done, and I could get back to the far east.

Miso soup broth. Just like Ramen.

So for the “broth” for this is super simple. Boiling water + miso paste + jalapeños + soy sauce + garlic + ginger + bruised lemongrass. Let it sit and marinate into one another, and it’s veggie time. The recipe calls for not much veggie cooking time, so I put them in longer (and hotter) than Green Kitchen Stories calls for because I like my veggies a little more al dente in soup. Also, I ended up adding too much miso because “enough to taste” I took as “keep adding because you’re not tasting it enough, oh wait, you just didn’t dissolve it all the way in your stirring and that was about 2 spoonfuls ago…” but it didn’t ruin it by any means, it just had more punch than I would have originally liked. Separately I made the soba noodles (which took maybe 100 seconds in the water before they were set).

Now my plan was to keep the noodles separate, and to just add them to the individual bowls as they were consumed, but after sitting in the strainer for about 90 seconds, the noodles turned into a brick. So I tossed them with some cold water, and slid them all into the soup, except for the first bowl, documented here:

Everything is better with Siracha…unless you don’t take into account the amount of jalapeños you’ve already put into your homemade miso soup…

So I wasn’t planning on taking a photo of this last image because as soon as I took the photo with the siracha, I almost knocked my tri-pod over diving toward the bowl to dump everything in, top with Siracha, and waterboard myself with Miso-goodness. But in a moment of clarity, I looked at the mess that was produced with my hasty condiment additions, and I thought it was the prefect representation of these kinds of soups. They’re not pretty. Let me rephrase that: you’re not pretty when you eat them. It’s hot,  but that doesn’t slow you down, so you’re coughing on the steam, your tongue is getting seared, there is sweat on your upper lip, your cheeks are turning red, there’s lava-like broth rolling down your chin, and you keep shoveling it in your mouth as fast as you can, as if the OSS is outside  your door, waiting to evict you from your home and take you down a very unfortunate path (too much?). Now, I’m not saying my version is anywhere as amazing and Nazi-flashback inducing as that original bowl of Pho I had, but it was still pretty damn great.

Must….restrain……….must…take photo..for….BLOG

Epilogue: well I encountered some unfortunateness with this soup. You guessed it: the noodles. My first bowl was amazing. And by my second bowl the noodles were already getting really soggy and fat. By the time John got home (a little over an hour after I completed the soup) there was barely any liquid left. The flavor was still there, but the texture…yikes. I took some to work for lunch the next day, and while (as I said) it still tasted fine, the texture was just too unsettling. We ended up having the throw a lot of it away (and I mean “will have to throw away” because it’s been sitting in the back of the fridge for 2 days, untouched, because who has the time to walk to the trash can and turn a pot upside down?).

My vow to you: I will perfect this soup. Or at least have enough people on hand and ready to eat as soon as it’s ready! Volunteers?

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