Think of miso soup and you might imagine a light broth, a gentle aroma and some some simple greens floating calmly on top. You might even want to pair it with something punchy and hearty just to fill you up.
Not at Yamamoto Ya Honten.
We waited a good 45 minutes in the queue for a seat at this restaurant in Nagoya – desperate to try what they are famous for: Misonikomi: A hatcho miso soup with thick, hand-made udon and a variety of toppings. The hatcho miso was made locally in Okazaki, so was virtually a celebrity ingredient in this region.
It is quite the norm for a restaurant in Japan to specialise in just one dish, and offer nothing else; such is the level of specialism that surrounds their chefs. Chefs in Japan are not just Japanese Chefs; they are yakitori chefs, sushi chefs, tempura chefs, sashimi chefs, ramen chefs – you get the idea! Food is a craft here, so if you are going to be a chef, you will master the art of making something, very well.
My friend bravely ordered the misonikomi udon with the beef intestines…
..while I tried my hatcho miso soup with slices of locally bred pork, raw egg yolk and ribbons of those signature udon noodles.
I always frowned upon people who did not finish the dish they ordered (especially if all they did was order one dish!) - “what a waste” I thought! ” Pathetic!” But this day I was defeated. The rich pork stock simmered with dark chocolatey hatcho miso paste was gloopy from the starchy noodles and runny egg that nested inside.
So thick and sticky, I could feel myself slowing down my slurps of miso soup, and half way through, I guiltily pushed away the hot pot that was quite clearly far bigger than my belly. I felt like I was in an episode of Man vs. Food, minus the belching and the glory.
This was the heaviest, richest, miso soup I had ever tasted. Each mouthful was heavenly, but there can indeed be too much of a good thing! So if you like your soups with strong punchy flavours and thought that miso soups were too light/not filling enough…think again!
There is a miso for everyone.