An Overlander’s Miso Soup

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Overlanding in the freezing winter months of Japan with night temperatures around 14 degrees (Fahrenheit), Coen and I appreciated eating soup for dinner. The hot liquid warmed us during the months of heavy snow, was easy and quick to prepare, plus I could vary endlessly with the ingredients. Even when eating miso soup every evening, we never ate the same meal.

By no means will I pretend that this comes anywhere close to the traditional Japanese miso soup. This is an overlander version, which means results can differ enormously, depending on where you travel and what ingredients you can find.

Having said that, I create the base of my soup with two traditional ingredients, dashi and miso. From here, I can vary the soup with different vegetables and meats.

What are Dashi and Miso?

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Dashi is Japanese stock. You can make this yourself (Google is your friend) but I buy it ready-made. The dried variant has a texture similar to freeze-dried coffee or instant yeast and, like any dried food, can be stored for a long time. Commonly used are fish dashi (e.g. based on anchovy or tuna) and seaweed dashi (e.g. kombu).

I use about 2 tablespoons per liter of water.

Miso is a paste made from soybeans, grains, salt and koji culture (a fermentation starter) that is fermented for a couple of months (or years, depending on the type) in cedar-wood kegs. There are many different types of miso, from very light to very dark. They all have different ratios of ingredients and thus a specific taste.

As it is a fermented product with salt, it won’t go bad very quickly. The shelf version keeps for a long time (check ‘best before’ date) and once opened, keep it in the fridge.

I add 2 tablespoons per liter of water. Add the miso at the very end because Japanese miso should never be boiled (it will lose flavor and aroma)!

You can buy dashi and miso in Asian grocery stores, online or – depending on where you live –  you may find it in the bigger supermarkets.

The Ingredients

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Although you can add whatever ingredients you like, commonly used ingredients in Japan include:
  • Root vegetables such as daikon, carrot, turnip, onions.
  • Other vegetables, e.g. cabbage, bean sprouts, spinach, leeks, okra.
  • Pre-cooked, thick noodles
  • Mushrooms (e.g. shimeji, maitake, enoki)
  • Manila Clams
  • Tofu
  • Seaweed (e.g. wakame)
The Japanese use chopsticks to pick out the ingredients and sip the broth from the bowl. They serve miso soup with a bowl of rice, and sometimes with side dishes.

Possible Pre-trip Preparations for Short Trips

  • If you prefer using fresh stock, you’ll probably want to make it at home.
  • You could chop the ingredients in chunks beforehand and keep them in ziplock bags.
  • In case you want to prepare the soup ahead of your trip, follow the recipe without the miso and tofu, which you’d bring separately. Onsite you heat the soup and then add the miso and tofu.

Cooking Instructions

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  • Bring a pan with dashi and root vegetables to a boil and let it simmer until the vegetables become tender.
  • Add the vegetables that need only a few minutes or less to cook, such as leaf vegetables and bean sprouts.
  • Add the mushrooms, pre-cooked noodles and seaweed (if you like it less salty, presoak the seaweed in a separate bowl of water).
  • Just before serving, stir in the miso, which will slowly dissolve. Make sure the soup is no longer boiling!
  • Add the chunks of tofu at the very end so they won’t break.
Serve with white rice in a small bowl and with chopsticks if you like to serve it Japanese style.



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Author
Landcruising Adventure, Outdoor Retailer, Overland Journal, camping, travel, Overland ExpoFreelance writer Karin-Marijke Vis, along with her partner Coen Wubbels, photographer, combine their love for adventure with work they enjoy. Sometimes described as being the ‘slowest overlanders in the world,’ they believe in making connections and staying in a place long enough to do so. In 2003 the couple purchased an antique BJ45 Land Cruiser and began a three-year trip from their home in the Netherlands to Asia. Terminally infected by the overland bug, they traveled in South America (9 years) and the Far East (2 years). Karin-Marijke and Coen are currently traveling in Russia. They’ve been published in car/4x4 and travel magazines around the world. Follow them on their websiteFacebook, and Instagram.


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