More than miso soup



By Keiko Iwasaki (North Clarendon, Vt.: Tuttle Publishing, 2021, 128 pp., $16.99, hard cover)

When asked to name or identify a Japanese soup, you’ll probably think of miso, but can you think of many more? In her book, “Japanese Soups,” Keiko Iwasaki shares 66 different soups, all varied in their flavors, styles and influences.

At the beginning of the book, Iwasaki introduces her foundational four rules of soup-making, which include specific instructions on how to create dashi and stock, layer flavors together through seasonings, add aromatics and pair ingredients to make the best soups boost flavor and depth. Just in case you needed convincing, she also devotes a section to the benefits of making and eating soup. Iwasaki promotes incorporating soups into diets to aid weight management and nutrition, so every recipe includes tags that share the soup’s health benefits, as well as a calorie count. For example, her recipe for Curried Tomato Soup with Pork Meatballs includes ingredients that are good for digestion, nourish the skin, ward off lifestyle disease and help with anti-aging.

That being said, Iwasaki shows the range that soups can have. While they can be served as a starter or side, many of the soups are more substantial, including a mix of protein, noodles, dumpling or vegetables. The main dish soup recipes in the book are enticing, blending Japanese and Western soup elements, such as Japanese onion soup with mochi rice cakes, a decadent take on French onion soup that uses toasted mochi instead of bread, and Pumpkin soup with Mochi dumplings. Through the sheer range of recipes she offers and techniques she shares in building soup bases and ingredient combinations, you could mix and match soups and ingredients into countless combinations.

Skill level-wise the recipes are approachable for the average home cook, not requiring specialty equipment or long lists of ingredients, while allowing for flexibility in ingredients, which encourages creativity. People seeking a simple one-pot meal will have plenty of options to choose from. Every soup recipe serves two, which is perfect for one to two people, or easily doubled or tripled for families or having leftovers. Most recipes take about 30 to 45 minutes, but there are recipes that can be done in 10 to 20 minutes as well, such as Mushroom Soup and Tofu Potage.

So don’t write off soup as only something to eat when you’re sick, during the winter, or as a side dish. This book will reshape how you might see soup fitting into your mealtime repertoire, while giving you a healthy, easy-to-make and delicious mealtime option.

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