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Dinner Tonight: Miso Soup with Grilled Eggplant and Mushrooms

A few weeks ago I finally figured out the secret to good miso soup. You can buy miso paste and all the tofu you can stomach, but to get it right you need dashi. I was so amazed by what I could do with dashi that I made miso soup four or five times in the ensuing days. Subsequently, by the end of my miso soup binge, I got rather tired of the standard recipe made with tofu and scallion. I loved the taste of the soup, but what else could I add?

Luckily, there are many sites dedicated to the subject (The Japanese Food Report, for instance, has a post that lists 54 variations of the soup). I specifically wanted to use the eggplants and mushrooms I had on hand, and that's when I came across this recipe for grilled eggplant and mushroom miso soup by Maki Itoh from Just Hungry. She grills the vegetables before tossing them in the broth. Interestingly, the vegetables are grilled without a single drop of oil! She says you can taste the vegetables better when they're cooked this way, and considering how delicious they were, she may be right.

Dashi is probably the big stumbling block here. To make it from scratch you'll need some bonito flakes and dried kelp. I have my own method, and Itoh has her own. The Japanese Food Report has an excellent tutorial, as do we on Serious Eats. If this is all too much, you can also buy instant dashi, but I've never used it before.

Other than making dashi, this recipe couldn't be much simpler—or healthier for that matter. I felt a little too healthy after eating this and ended up needing a snack later on in the night.

About the author: Nick Kindelsperger is a freelance writer in Chicago and the co-founder of The Paupered Chef.

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