17 Comfort Foods For Deep Winter

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Washington, District of Columbia – September 13, 2012: The Tonjiru (Pork Belly Miso Soup) was photographed at Izakaya Seki restaurant in Washington, DC on Thursday, September 13, 2012. (Photo by Joseph Victor Stefanchik for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

17. Miso soup

This is a cold weather life saver. While it’s certainly possible that many of you haven’t tried this, you definitely, definitely should.

Briefly: this is a traditional Japanese soup make out of a stock called “dashi” (made of kombu seaweed and fish flakes), in which you incorporate a softened miso paste. Miso is a traditional seasoning made out of fermented soybeans, sometimes with the help of other ingredients like rice or barley. It’s a culinary staple packed full of proteins and vitamins, which means it’s like an actually healthy version of chicken and noodle soup. More than 80% of Japanese miso production goes towards making miso soup, and the vast majority of Japanese people report consuming miso soup at least once a day.

Traditionally, the other ingredients of the soup are chosen to reflect the season in which it’s consumed. A strongly flavored ingredient is typically chosen, along with a more delicate version. Thus, you get combinations like negi (a kind of onion) and tofu. You can also pair ingredients based on things that float (seaweed, sliced daikon) and things that sink (potatoes, meat, mushrooms).

You can get instant miso soup, but there’s no real reason keeping you from making your own at home. Yes, you will likely have to track down your local Asian grocery store to find some of the ingredients, but it’s worth your time to have them in your pantry.

Recipe: How to make miso soup (The Kitchn)

Healthier variation: There really isn’t one. Miso soup is pretty great on its own. If you want a vegetarian version, by the way, you can simply omit the fish flakes when you’re making your dashi.

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Do you have a favorite comfort food recipe to use during the winter? Let us know in the comments below!