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The theme for this dish is a classic ’70s jazzy soul tune performed flawlessly. I’ve always really dug Roberta Flack. She’s a strange blend of ’70s genres: a bit of soul, some easy listening, jazzy, bluesy, with a touch of cabaret. “Killing Me Softly With His Song” is my favorite Flack song. Yes, I realize that’s a cliche obvious choice, but it’s mine nonetheless. Simple instrumentation with minimal production laying bare Flack’s emotional performance without unnecessary frills. It’s a perfect example of why many timeless classics have a “less is more” feel.
To make a major metaphoric leap, miso soup is timeless for the same reason. It’s traditionally a pretty minimal production. Dashi, some miso, greens, mushrooms, and tofu. Simple light and clean. The perfect opener for a sushi meal and a great way to whet the appetite.
I really only tend to order miso soup if having sushi. If I’m getting delivery, I’m generally getting hot & sour. (Yes – I know I just went from Japan to China but most hood delivery has miso soup as well.) I’ve MAYBE made miso soup at home twice in 20 years. My two biggest issues with most miso soups are the tofu and the mushrooms. Traditionally, neither add much to the soup, and both generally end up with a sort of mushy texture. I wanted more substantial topping in my miso making it more a meal than an appetizer.
While there are a variety of miso soups recipes, most you will encounter contain some sort of broth, miso paste, some greens, mushrooms, and tofu. In planning for my version, I replaced the broth with water but upped the miso paste for a stronger miso flavor. For the greens, I used bok choy and added a bit of carrot for sweetness. I swapped the usual portobello or shiitake mushrooms for enoki. They still add an earthiness to the soup without the mushy texture.
Finally, it was time to find a substitute for the tofu. I wanted something that was still vegan, added a protein component, and would not get mushy. The obvious answer was seitan. As most of my seitan recipes are more Western in flavor profile (chorizo, hot dogs, Italian sausage, etc.) I decided to work up Asian seasoned seitan for this soup I had been doing research on a ramyun recipe zine so I had a lot of Korean spices and pastes in the pantry. I chose to use some gochujang chili paste and spicy red soybean paste to season the seitan. I then made it in my usual sausage loaf style for a result that was meaty and slightly spicy. It worked perfectly in the soup adding a touch of heat and not getting mushy in the broth.
KILLING MISO SOFTLY WITH HIS SOUP
Gochujang seitan, white miso, baby bok choy, scallions, enoki mushrooms, and carrots
Makes 3-4 servings
6 cups of water
1/2 cup white miso
1 Baby bok choy stalks chopped – leaves reserved and sliced
3 scallions separate whites and greens and chopped
1-ounce Enoki mushrooms
1/2 cup shredded carrots
8-ounces gochujang seitan, cubed (see recipe below)
Bring 6 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add miso to the pot and turn the heat down to a slow simmer. Once miso is dissolved, slowly add scallions whites, carrots, and bok choy stems and allow to simmer 10 minutes. Then, add the seitan, bok choy leaves, and scallion greens. Simmer for 2-3 more minutes.
Makes about 1 pound
1/3 cup cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon gochugaru
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoon gochujang
1 tablespoon white miso
1 1/2 teaspoon spicy red soybean paste
1/3 cup seltzer
1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
Place chickpeas and spices in a food processor and process on low until thoroughly combined. Add Maggi sauce, miso, gochujang, soybean paste, and seltzer. Blend on low until it turns into a smooth sauce. Add the vital wheat gluten and process until it comes together as a ball.
Turn the dough ball out onto a cutting board and knead 5 minutes. Form into a sausage-like loaf and wrap tightly in foil. Place in a steamer basket and steam 50 minutes. Let cool completely on the counter then rest in the fridge overnight.