I cannot eat most Japanese miso soups, even though I do like miso, aka soybean paste. There’s nothing WRONG with Japanese miso soup–it’s just that I love Korean “miso soup” even more, having grown up on its more pungent flavor.
In my mind, miso soup is supposed to be wild and rustic; Japanese miso soup is well mannered and mild, perhaps more refined. And I prefer the imprint of “wild and rustic” in my mind; perhaps for me, it’s just like how ketchup has become synonymous to Heinz. I just think that “wild and rustic” is how miso soup is SUPPOSED to taste like.
Korean “miso soup” (“doen-jang gook”) is based on Korean soybean paste and is a lot more pronounced in miso flavor, even mildly spicy, and the best pastes even have chunks of fermented soybean in them.
When I can get my hands on homemade soybean paste, that’s what I use–otherwise I use the Pulmuone brand or experiment around, like with the above brand. I’m still on a search for a decent (nay, excellent) manufactured brand of soybean paste. I’ll let you know if I run across a lifelong Korean soybean paste mate.
My mother used to make me a soup called “doen-jang shi-rae-gi gook,” which uses soybean paste as a base. The literal translation for the name of “shi-rae-gi gook” is “soybean paste trash soup” or “soybean paste garbage soup” but I’m going to use the moniker, “discards soup” because it sounds just a tad more savoury.
“Discards soup” is very much just that: made up of odds and ends. Because of the soup’s rustic nature, you can just about put any edible green into the recipe, whether it be spinach or dandelion greens…or in this case, Korean chrysanthemum leaves (“sook ggat”) and Korean radish leaves, freshly picked from my garden.
Likewise, you can add other ingredients as you please, and as they are available (there aren’t that many rules to a “trashy soup”). You can add sliced daikon radish, or sliced tofu cubes. If you have garlic, slice some up and add it. Feel free to improvise–after all, one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.
I love this dish for its utterly simple nature–which begins with its recipe. You boil some water (you can do that, right?)…add several spoonfuls of Korean soybean paste to taste…add sliced garlic and tofu and greens (or any other odds and ends)…and boil.
In a few minutes you have a proper Discards Soup.
Serve with rice (or not), and enjoy. You can make this soup as hearty (adding more ingredients) or lean (fewer ingredients) as you like. Me? I like to make it as hearty as possible, often loading the soup up with greens and tofu and even red hot pepper flakes for an extra kick.