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The Hand Off: Mushroom Miso Survival of the Fittest Soup

2010 December 16

by Brianna Bain

Sarah’s Holiday Borsht, the power of the magnificent mushroom and the magic of miso have created an inspirational trifecta for my Survival of the Fittest Soup! For many the holiday season is synonymous with the annual cold or flu but this year I challenge you to health!  As mentioned in my Tuesday post I am incorporating the powerful healing elements of miso aka: fermented soy bean and mycelium aka: mushrooms. To get you as excited about this soup as I am, I will give you a little back ground on both of these wonderful medicinal foods.

Miso has been around for thousands of years and has a strong cultural relationship with China and Japan. The fermentation process for miso takes at least one year and starts by introducing soybeans to a mixture of  water, salt and koji. Koji is any grain (typically rice) that has been inoculated with spores of Aspergillus oryzae, a type of mold also used in making sake and soy sauce. Aspergillus oryzae breaks down complex nutrients in the soybeans that are difficult for our digestive tracts to assimilate. Miso has been known as an immune boosting food because of its rich vitamin and mineral content but observations have suggested it can provide protection against exposure to radiation and heavy metals. Read more here.

Mushrooms beat miso to the scene by several millions of years. These ancient mycelium have survived all of Earth’s massive extinctions and even have surged in reaction to death, bringing new life force in the face of devastation.  Mushrooms are so much more than the portabellas you find in your favorite pizza, they are the immune system of our environment. These intelligent fungal allies clean and build soil, balance and unlock nutrients, and assist the human body in staying in optimum health.  Did you know that the animal kingdom is more closely related to fungi than to any other kingdom? For that reason we can have a very beneficial relationship with them. Mushrooms offer the human a variety of medicinal elements,  almost as as many as there are mushrooms( 13,000 so far) .  There are too many amazing facts about mushrooms to really give them justice here, so I encourage you to watch this TED talk video and check out Paul Stament’s book Mycelium Running to learn more.

With a little bit of knowledge on both miso and mushrooms I headed out to gather ingredients for my soup. I decided upon two types of mushrooms – Maitake and Bunapi, grown organically and locally in San Marcos California from  the Hokto Kinoko Company.  Both are known for their health supporting and medicinal properties.  I selected the mushrooms that I thought looked the nicest and would be more bite sized for soup. As for the miso I was amazed at the abundance of choices. This was my first time purchasing miso paste so I spent more time than usual reading labels and taking note of the differences between white, brown, red, mellow and sweet types. I finally decided  on Miso Master – Organic Red Miso paste What this extra investigation  into miso rewarded me with  was a special find, Kept in the same cool case as the miso these noodles were just what I need to complete my healthy soup, Kelp noodles!  These gluten free noodles, infused with organic green tea, are made by Sea Tangle Noodle Company in San Diego’s bountiful backyard: Valley Center.

I have assembled a simple, healthy and delicious life supporting soup that is gluten, dairy free and vegetarian. Hopefully this will be a meal to soothe your seasonal woes or skirt that cold entirely.

Mushroom Miso Soup 

Prep time: 35 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: 4-6 Servings (depending whether served as an entree or first course)


  • 12 oz. kelp noodles
  • 2 Tbs fresh ginger, minced
  • 7 oz. mixed mushrooms, fresh or dried (Maitake and Bunapi were used in the original recipe)
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 medium leeks
  • 4 oz. miso paste
  • 1/2 (or 2 tsp) one lemon, juiced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • green onions, for garnish

Cooking Directions

  1. Slice and quarter the eggplant.
  2. Clean, trim and slice the leeks.
  3. In a large skillet add quartered eggplant, sliced leeks, 1/4 cup of water and lemon juice, simmer over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes or until soft.
  4. In a large soup pot add water, vegetable broth and minced ginger, bring to a boil then let simmer over low heat.
  5. Prepare mushrooms by separating into individual pieces or cutting into bite size pieces, set aside.
  6. Prepare noodles by rinsing and cutting to desired length.
  7. Remove about 1 cup of hot broth from pot and put into a small mixing bowl, add miso paste and mix until dissolved, set aside.
  8. Add eggplant mixture to the simmering broth mix.
  9. Add mushrooms and kelp noodles, let simmer for 10 minutes.
  10. Finally , remove form heat, add broth and miso mixture and mix well. Miso is added last to avoid over heating and weakening the benefits of the live culture.
  11. Serve hot and with a few chopped green onion for garnish.
  12. Slurp in pure satisfaction!


This soup is extremely easy to make.  I used eggplant and leeks for some extra flavor and added color but I believe that it would have been just as good without them, making this soup even easier to prepare. The distinct miso flavor does not need many supportive ingredients so feel free to simplify with a less is more approach. Two ingredients I would not give up – the noodles,  which add a wonderful consistency, and the ginger,  which really gives this soup a nice zing and is good for the stomach. Good health to you this holiday season!


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  • Barbara Diffenderfer

    Dear Brianna, Sarah, and Kat,

    I just want to say a very heartfelt thanks to all of you and wish you the very best of this season! Every week since you started Recipe Relay, I have checked your postings, and each time I am absolutely blown away and thrilled to be newly enriched by your creativity and loving hearts. It is so lovely how personal, cozy and fun you make learning about sustainable practices and foods that are life supporting, delicious and gorgeous. I have developed an even greater appreciation for how beautiful fruits and vegetables are. I have also been greatly encouraged to learn about places all across the country that offer sustainably grown produce as well as animal products that have been produced with respect and kindness toward the animals . Your own website is so beautiful and rich all by itself—-then there is a wealth of extras you always throw in. It is all very exciting and so rewarding. I want to thank each one of you with all my heart!

    • sarahamaine

      Barbara – thank you so much for your kind words and support of RecipeRelay! We are so glad you enjoy the posts and are getting useful information from them. Let us know if there is something in particular that you would like to know more about and we will do our best to cover it. Keep reading and spreading the RecipeRelay love! Have a very Happy 2011!

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  • sarahamaine

    By the way – I finally watched the Paul Stamet’s TED talk – really great stuff – a lot of information in only 18 minutes, it’s clearly a heavily condensed summary of Stamet’s studies and achievements in the world of fungi. I am definitely inspired to learn more about these amazing (and tasty!) planetary partners!

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