We eat it a lot, this Hokkaido pumpkin miso soup. And the taste reminds me so much of one of my favorite countries: Japan! Who has been there?? I (Robien) have been a few times, and love it so much. There is something really calm about that country. I often wonder how that works, because nature there is wild, with the ocean and high volcanic mountains, and there is an overload of people in certain places. I think it’s something in the Japanese culture. There really is something zen about how people interact there. I mean, I’m used to people pushing each other forward on the station platforms to get in the train as fast as possible and preferably first. And then there’s Japan: neat lines in exactly in front of each train door. Love it! And I can’t wait to go back there.
For me, the best thing in Japan is visiting my friends in Hokkaido and to snowboard together. And the second best thing: trying things that are completely normal in Japan, but not for me. Therefore I’m always resistant to do them because it’s out of my comfort zone. I don’t really know how to behave in a ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn, but I want to do it right. I love sleeping in the beds on the tatami-matted floors. But I don’t really know how the communal bathing works (my friends in Hokkaido took me to several amazing onsens – Japanese hot springs, and I learned the rules there – sort of). I also don’t know how to order ramen, especially when there is a ticket machine. Even if I did know, I’m way too slow (I have had queues appear behind me). Japanese people can order and eat very quickly. And there we go again, I really don’t know how I always feel so calm there, since many things are so fast.
But let’s talk about Japanese food because that is something special, isn’t it? It is definitely something I sometimes love and sometimes despise. I love tamari (FYI, I never eat ‘normal’ soy sauce since it contains wheat, which I’m allergic to). I also love ume su, a vinegary flavoring made from fermented ume fruits, comparable to apricots or plums. But I really can’t come near nattō, made from fermented soybeans. My friends there love it and buy it as a snack after snowboarding. But I honestly get queasy from the smell alone. Another thing I find difficult is a traditional Japanese breakfast. It’s interesting, but not my thing. Please give me my smoothie bowls!
Anyway, back to the stuff I love. I love miso! Miso is, like nattō, made from fermented soybeans, but there are many ways to ferment, thank god. Because of the fermentation, it is really healthy for your gut (if you are interested in gut health, you should look into our program Reset Your Health). There are many ways to use miso in your diet. Below, I will share one of my favorite soups in which I use it: Hokkaido pumpkin miso soup. I prefer a lighter version of miso for this recipe. As you may know, miso comes in various colours. To me, they all look brown. But in the stores, you will see white, yellow, red, brown and dark brown miso. The lighter the color, the sweeter and milder it usually tastes. Darker miso is often saltier, richer, has a sharper taste. You should try different ones if you’re interested. But make sure to always choose a paste, organic (so non-GMO) and unpasteurized.
Talking about Japan, I looked through my pictures and will show you some. The first one: my favorite ryokan in Tokyo; a calm idyllic place. If you are there, you would never guess you are in Tokyo. The middle one: me doing something I used to do all the time: visiting friends all over the world who live in snowboard meccas, in this case: Niseko. The one on the right: me trying to be grateful for the food 😉 – a typical Japanese breakfast in a ryokan in Tsumago.
HOKKAIDO PUMPKIN SOUP
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Quantity: 2 or 3 for dinner, 4 as a starter
- 1/2 cup quinoa (another lovely option: 75 g pp buckwheat noodles)
- 1 medium Hokkaido pumpkin (or another one of your choice)
- 3 cup broth OR water*
- 1 – 2 tbsp white/light miso
- 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
- sesame seeds
- seaweed (dried flakes)
- other options are for example mushrooms of our choice (tip: sautéed shiitakes, very good), spring onions or an egg (raw if you dare)
INSTRUCTIONS HOKKAIDO PUMPKIN MISO SOUP
- Wash or brush the pumpkin. Do it really well, since you will be eating the skin, and cut into chunks.
- Put the pumpkin in a large pot and add the broth or water. Bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the pumpkin is ready.
- Cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the package (if you want to know how to prepare grains in a way your gut loves and maximizes the nutritional values, check out our program Reset Your Health).
- Lightly toast sesame seeds.
- Transfer the soup to a blender, and blend until smooth. Add more water if necessary (according to how thick you want the soup). Then, add the miso and ginger, and blend again until smooth. Taste and see if it needs any seasoning to your liking. Transfer back to the pot (never bring it to a boil after you’ve added the miso since that ruins the gut loving qualities of the miso) or serve straight away with the toppings.
*Choosing between water or broth: miso itself can be used as a broth, so choosing a broth and miso is double up. But if we’re able to visit our local organic butcher, we do use broth for extra gut loving ingredients. The one we buy isn’t salted (miso contains salt). Or sometimes we buy this Dutch brand (and add some water). It does contain a little salt, but since we’re not using that much miso, it’s not too much.