Ever wonder why the miso made from store-bought miso paste isn’t as good as the miso you’re served in Japanese restaurants? Not long ago, I asked the man behind the counter of our local sushi carryout about this, and he said, “Well, some restaurants use seasoning salt.” I studied the bottle and passed it back to him disapprovingly noting, “Well, that has MSG in it.”

“Do you know about Bonito flakes?” he asked, presenting me with a package of dried fish flakes that listed no harmful salts or preservatives.

Since that day, we always pour hot water through a strainer full of Bonito flakes, also known as “katsobushi,” every time we make a bowl of miso. It lends the broth a much richer flavor, and it also has a nice smell.

Add small cubes of firm tofu, finely sliced scallions, and a dried seaweed flake (available in most health food stores today), and you have a soup that will bolster you better than a mug of coffee when your energy flags in the late afternoon.

At the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, miso is served with diced carrots and translucent cooked white onions floating in it, often at breakfast. I’ve trained my older son to enjoy miso in the mornings, and I think it launches him into his hectic day with a warm feeling in his belly that lasts several hours.

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