Soups are an important part of Japanese cuisine, both as appetizers and main dishes – here are two main dish soups that I made recently. On a cold night like tonight, filled with snow and sleet, a hot bowl of Miso Ramen soup is the perfect dinner and comfort food. I’ve eaten a lot of instant packaged ramen in my life. In fact, when I was little my parents used to cook up ramen noodles into a soup made with cabbage and celery and cut up hot dogs! Granted, this was somewhat non-traditional Japanese cuisine, but my brother and I enjoyed it. We got a lot of practice using our chopsticks (we each had a special lacquered pair that we considered our own) to try and grab those slippery noodles and slurp them up along with the broth. Little did we know that slurping is actually the proper way to enjoy a Japanese noodle soup such as this one. As I got older, I didn’t much care for traditional cereal at breakfast, and often prepared myself a package of ramen noodles instead.
Miso Ramen is a more intricate ramen soup, but so flavorful and definitely worth the additional time spent in preparing it. A rich stock was made from browned pork simmered in chicken broth, then seasoned with red or brown miso (aka miso), soy sauce (shoyu), mirin and sesame oil. An instant pack of ramen noodles was cooked up and placed in the bottom of the bowl. Meanwhile, thin slices of pork were boiled in the seasoned stock until just cooked. The broth and pork were layered on top of the noodles and the soup was garnished with green onion and toasted sesame seeds.
The second soup pictured above is a Salmon Hotpot soup, called Ishikari-nabe. A weaker miso broth is prepared (I used white or shiro miso) and in this broth is simmered chunks of potato, carrot, onion, salmon, shiitake mushrooms, and tofu. Both soups are very hearty, main dish types of soup, welcome meals on these cold winter days.