The perfect vegetarian/vegan soup to kick off the fall season
Hello! It’s Sunday as I write this, and after a long week (and weekend, to be honest) I’m excited to be able to devote a bit of time to the fun kind of work (that being this blog!) It may still be a trillion degrees here in Atlanta, but I’m ready for all things squash. I may or may not have created at least three different recipes this week using squash- I am at that level of semi-crazed autumnal dedication.
Though things are a bit bleak in the world right now, nothing tends to give me more joy than experimenting in the kitchen. And thus this Kabocha and Miso soup was born! I love kabocha squash in particular for its wonderfully creamy flesh (I know, kind of an awkward sounding thing to say, but hang in there). It works so well in soup and in baked goods for this exact reason, and marries pretty magically with the rich funky flavor of the miso. But speaking of miso, let’s dive a bit deeper into its history, shall we?
Brief Miso history:
While the exact origins of miso are unclear, its precursor most likely developed in China and then spread to Japan (potentially by buddhist monks) approximately 1000-1300 years ago. Original iterations contained a mixture of grains, salt, and soybeans- while some sources say some versions included fish or crab (shishi-bisio). Although miso originally served as a method to preserve food, it eventually became a staple within the diet of the nobility and the Samurai around the 11th century. At one point in time, miso made with rice (white miso) was primarily eaten by upper class individuals due to the high expense of white rice. Peasants and lower class individuals made miso with broken rice or grains, making darker versions of miso. Before being made into a firm paste, miso was served with various meals composing of vegetables, fish, and rice and had a consistency closer to that of apple sauce, more closely resembling similar foods known as jiang or hishio. During periods of economic downturn, miso was even used as currency amongst some civilians. Miso soup was an integral component of Ichiju-issai, or roughly “one soup, one dish”, a foundation of Japanese eating that developed around the Kamakura period of Japan. Miso soup is still an integral component of foundational Japanese cuisine, however is more commonly referred to being a part of ichiju-sansei, or “one soup 3 (side) dishes”. Of course, it is important to take into consideration the diversity of Japanese cuisine as well as the diversity of miso, as many different versions exist utilizing the native ingredients of local regions.
*Aoyagi, Akiko, and William Shurtleff. “History of Miso and Soybean Chiang - Page 2.” SoyInfo Center, SoyInfo Center, 2004.
MisoTasy. “The Origin & History of Miso.” Miso Tasty, Miso Tasty, 3 July 2018.
Project, Ichiju-Sansai. “What Is Ichiju-Sansai?” All About Japan, AllAbout-Japan.com, 30 May 2018.
Sapporo Restaurants. “Ingredient Spotlight: The History of Miso - Sapporo.” Sapporo Teppanyaki - Japanese Restaurant - Manchester & Liverpool, Sapporo Restaurants, 2019. *
Onto the recipe! Roasting the squash and vegetables in the oven gives the soup a really delicious caramelized flavor, and also reduces some of the cutting time. Feel free to omit the thyme, or replace with a similar herb of your liking.
Kabocha Miso Soup
-1 medium kabocha squash
-1/4 cup thyme (optional)
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
-5 cloves garlic, peeled
-4 tbsp olive oil
-1 tbsp bouillon
-1 tbsp miso
-1 tbsp + 1 tsp salt
-5 cups water
-black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400° F. Carefully cut off the stem of the squash, and microwave for 4 minutes (to make cutting easier). Cut the squash into quartes, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place on sheet tray along with the onion, garlic, and thyme, and dress with olive oil and 1 tbsp of the salt. Place in oven and cook for about 40-45 minutes, until the squash is fork tender. Let cool and scoop the flesh out of the squash, disposing or composting the skin. Set aside. In a large pot, add your water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and dissolve your bouillon and miso into the water. Returning to your vegetables, add half of your squash, garlic, and onion to a high-powered blender or food processor along with half of the broth. Carefully purée until smooth, and pour into a large bowl. Add the remaining squash, garlic, onion, and broth to your blender and mix until smooth. Add all of the soup mixture back into your pot along with an additional tsp of salt and black pepper to taste. Bring heat to a simmer until warmed through, serve and enjoy!