Transform Asian Kitchen Staples Into an Umami-Packed Vegetarian Soup

February 20, 2024

It’s a common misconception that the best soups require long ingredient lists and hours of simmering. In fact, just a handful of high-flavor items can be transformed into an umami-bomb of a soup in just 45 minutes. In this recipe from our book “Cook What You Have,” we get the job done thanks to just a few high-impact Asian pantry staples. The soup has three sources of umami — mushrooms, miso and kimchi. Dried shiitake mushrooms contribute to the soup in two ways. Rehydrating them in hot water renders them soft and supple while infusing the soaking water with flavor. We slice and sauté the mushroom caps until browned, along with fresh ginger and garlic. We also mix the mushroom-infused water with store-bought chicken or vegetable broth to give it a deep, earthy note.

Meanwhile, white miso adds gentle richness and a mellow, nutty sweetness, and kimchi brings a funkier fermented flavor, sharp acidity and a gentle heat.

Be sure to scrape up any browned bits when you add the broth to the mushrooms — browning equals flavor, and you don’t want to leave any stuck to the pan. Use low-sodium broth, as miso and kimchi can be quite salty.

If you like, you can make the soup more substantial by stirring in cooked shredded chicken near the end of simmering, or keep things vegetarian. Finish with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, and garnish with freshly sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for Miso, Shiitake Mushroom and Kimchi Soup. (Milk Street via AP)


Servings: 4 1 ounce (12 to 14 medium) dried shiitake mushrooms

2 cups boiling water

2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth OR vegetable broth

¼ cup white miso

1 cup cabbage kimchi, roughly chopped

4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Toasted sesame oil, to serve In a small bowl, combine the mushrooms and boiling water. Cover and let stand until the mushrooms are fully hydrated, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms; reserve the water. Trim off and discard the mushroom stems and thinly slice the caps.

In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the broth, the mushroom liquid and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits, then cover, reduce to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the miso and ¼ cup of the hot broth until the miso is dissolved. Stir the miso mixture and kimchi into the broth. Return the soup to a simmer over medium-high, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat. Serve sprinkled with the scallions and drizzled with sesame oil.

Optional garnish: Soft- or hard-cooked eggs, halved OR toasted sesame seeds OR both

By CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street


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