For the first time in my life, I eat breakfast every day. After years of crazy college class schedules and restaurant work until all hours of the night, I have a “normal” schedule which requires me to get up at 5:30 every day. If I don’t eat breakfast, by the time school lunch is served at 12:35 I am cranky and ravenous, so I’ve learned to allot some extra time every morning to making breakfast. For the past couple months I have been on a self-imposed diet to burn off all the tonkatsu, tempura, ramen and curry rice that is oh-so-delicious but oh-so-sad for my waistline. This meant eliminating my go-to carb breakfasts of cereal and toast, and I found myself turning to the Japanese staple breakfast, miso soup. While I worried that miso preparation would not only be time consuming but boring after a few weeks, I am proud to say that miso is still delicious, and I have found a method that only takes five minutes. Without further ado I present to you “5 Minute Miso Shiru.”
1 cup water
Miso paste: I prefer the white or yellow miso, as opposed to the red paste
Instant dashi: Instead of making true dashi, which is very time consuming, many Japanese cooks turn to instant. You can find it anywhere in Japan and most likely any good Asian market in the US. Look for the label “Hondashi” in the red and white packaging from Ajinomoto
Firm tofu: In Japan, this is labeled “momen” tofu, and holds up well in soups. In the states, any firm tofu is good. Once you open the tofu and slice, it only stays fresh for a few days, so the smaller package the better
Wakame: a type of seaweed abundant in Japan, wakame is usually sold dried in flakes. If you find fresh wakame, you can use it instead
Prep: for this recipe to be truly five minutes in the morning, you will need to do a few minutes of prep the night before, but it is equally easy. First, place your wakame (dried or fresh) in some hot water to soak. While it’s soaking, take your tofu out of the packing and drain the liquid. Then place it on a plate with paper towels and cover to absorb the excess liquid. Some recipes call for placing a heavy pan or such on top of the tofu, but I find this step to be unnecessary.
While the tofu sits, drain your wakame and either squeeze the extra water out with your hands or between a few paper towels. Place on a cutting board and chop into rough flakes, not too small, between the size of a quarter and a nickel (or 100 yen to 50 yen here in Japan). Place sliced wakame in tupperware.
Remove tofu from paper towels and place on cutting board. Depending on the size of your block, make cubes about the size of dice. Anything smaller may break up in the soup. Place tofu in the same tupperware and store in the fridge.
Tools you will need: small pot, one-cup measuring cup, whisk or fork, spoon
Measure one cup of water (I use the same boiled water I make in the morning for coffee since it’s still hot, further speeding up the cooking process) and place in the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and add 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of dashi, depending on how salty you like the broth. Whisk to combine.
With the heat still on low, add your desired amount of wakame and tofu. Since it’s only one cup, this doesn’t have to be a lot. I add a little extra tofu to make it a more substantial breakfast. Your tofu and wakame will be cold from the fridge, so give it a minute to warm up in the broth. Once it has returned to a simmer, use the same measuring cup to scoop a little bit of the hot broth from the pot. You only need about a tablespoon or two, and don’t worry if some of the wakame comes with it.
Using your spoon, take a heaping spoonful of miso paste (about a tablespoon and a half) and add to the measuring cup. Whisk (using a fork is okay) until dissolved and fully incorporated. Now add this miso liquid back into the pot, being careful not to let the pot come to a boil. Boiling the miso hurts its composition and flavor. When I add the miso I actually turn the heat off altogether. Stir to combine, place in a bowl and eat with the same spoon you used on the miso to avoid extra dishes.
Clean up: if you rinse the measuring cup, whisk (or fork) and pot out with water immediately after use, you will have virtually no dishes to do after this meal. You don’t even have to apply a sponge or soap, so don’t be lazy and save yourself some clean up in the future.
Why should you eat miso for breakfast? You might be asking yourself, even if it only takes five minutes, do I really want to go through the trouble? YES, you should! Miso is a great breakfast for so many reasons:
1. It’s healthy. Miso paste is a natural pro-biotic, meaning it helps your stomach keep digestion smooth and gives your body healthy bacteria, like yogurt, to fight off infection. Also coming in at only an average of 64 calories a cup, it is a great way to stay full on less.
2. It’s easy. If all you can be bothered to do in the morning is add milk to cereal, then yes, this recipe might seem work intensive. But if you have ever cooked anything, it will seem very simple. If you don’t cook, this is a great starter meal to ease you in.
3. It’s warm. With fall upon us, we all know “Winter is coming.” Your body will be very grateful to have a hot meal that will warm your core and get you ready for the day.
4. It’s cheap. Really. Even packaged cereal and milk will set you back more than this soup. Let’s do the math:
Miso paste, usually a large tub that will last for weeks, if not months in the fridge: $3-$4
Instant dashi, a small jar that will last for months of miso soup: $4-$5
Tofu, can last for five days of miso soup: $3
Wakame, the dried flakes last forever and will provide for months of miso: $3
Even without any fancy accounting, you are looking at less than $1.25 a day. Now tell me what other delicious, healthy and substantial breakfast can compare with that? You may have seen lots of instant miso soup packets at the store, and will be asking why don’t I just use those? Wouldn’t it be even faster? Perhaps, but as I have said before, when you can help it, NO PROCESSED FOOD. The problem with any “instant” or packaged goods are the preservatives and added sodium, sugars, etc. Plus they are a one-trick pony. You can’t do anything else with instant miso other than make miso soup. However, if you have miso paste, tofu and wakame in your fridge, you can do all kinds of other things with your cooking! So please, no instant miso.
Final thoughts: Since this dish is low in calories and not meant to serve as a whole meal, eat your breakfast miso with a little side something to keep yourself full ’til lunch. I add a side of fruit, and maybe a piece of cheese, but if you are not on a particular diet, feel free to add some toast, a hard-boiled egg, or if you want to go full Japanese, a small bowl of rice. I love to have apple in the morning with a small drizzle of balsamic reduction. It’s tasty and keeps my mind off peanut butter!
Now you know everything you need to enjoy five minute miso! You heard right, folks! That’s five breakfasts for five dollars in only five minutes! You’re going to like the way it tastes, I guarantee it!