We covered some fantastic miso soup in my latest miso soup post, but what about ingredients that might be unfamiliar? To help you navigate Japanese markets and find these gems, I wanted to share a trio of photos of key ingredients I mentioned. Please check out the slide show below. First up, are two kinds of convenient dashi packs, one made with katsuobushi/kombu (dried, shaved bonito and kombu kelp) and the other with iriko (tiny dried fish). The handy illustrations on the front helps you tell the difference. The directions on the back say to place one pack in a saucepan with 3 1/2 cups of water, bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pack (chuck it) and your dashi is ready.
Next, you'll see two kinds of miso with their packaging. The chestnut-colored one on the left is Sendai miso, one of my favorite varieties of aka miso (red miso). The other, lighter-colored, savory shiro miso is a type of Shinshu that I recently found (organic, to boot). The ingredients for both of these rice-based miso are, simply, soy beans, rice, salt -- that's all there should be, nothing else. Also, notice that these miso are a coarsely ground paste, rather than smooth. That's because they're both inaka style miso -- rustic, "countryside" style, that is -- which are wonderful. When you taste these miso you'll get a profound sense of savoriness (umami) rather than saltiness. Delicious.
Finally, I included a shot of two kinds of fried tofu. The thin sliced one is abura age, thin slices deep fried. The thick one is atsu age, fried on the outside and firm white tofu on the inside. For both, stick in a colander and pour boiling water over them first to rinse away excess oil. These two ingredients add delightful flavor and texture to miso soup, beyond good ole' tofu. Abura age, by the way, comes several to a pack and can store in the freezer for months, so you can always keep some handy. (By the way, age in both tofu is pronounced "ah-geh.")
Okay, here are the photos: