As winter time approaches here in New Zealand I've been thinking about a strategy to stay on a raw diet throughout the cold weather of winter. I know from past experience that while it's easy and quite natural for me to eat raw during warm weather, when it starts getting cold it's harder for me to stay raw naturally, and I especially love soups in the winter months.
Today I think I found a solution, and I'd just like to take a moment to express my gratitude for miso. I have loved miso since I first tasted it. But to make things even better, it's a fermented food. Which means that even though the ingredients are cooked (and not raw), the fermentation process turns it back into a living food, full of enzymes and friendly bacteria that help to promote healthy digestion.
Simply dissolving a spoonful of miso paste into a cup of warm water makes a delicious, nourishing broth. And from there you can add whatever vegetables you like and have on hand.
Miso comes in many varieties, all with different flavors, depending on the base ingredient used to make it. The one I use most is the sweet brown rice miso, I find it's the most versatile. But I also love the brown rice miso in soups. For stronger flavor, try the barley or soy bean miso. Just be careful to choose a miso that's made with non-GM foods, and one that's raw and unpasteurized.
The pasteurizing process was developed to kill any bacteria, so pasteurizing any fermented food, like apple cider vinegar, yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kills all the beneficial bacteria – totally defeating the whole purpose of fermenting the food in the first place. It seems totally ridiculous to me that anyone would even consider doing it, but we've strayed so far from nature and what's natural that we do ridiculous and counter-productive things like this all the time. We've become so paranoid about bacteria that we've forgotten that without these amazing little creatures, the world as we know it would not exist.
The trick to miso soup is to never boil the miso. If you boil the miso you'll kill the friendly bacteria and enzymes. Always boil or warm the water, wait for it to cool down a bit and then add it to the miso. To qualify as a raw food you want to make sure you don't heat it above 110-118 degrees F (43-47 degrees C), because above that temperature you start destroying the nutrients and enzymes of the food.
So with all that said, let's get onto the business of making raw vegan miso soup with zucchini and pumpkin noodles. The easiest way is to prepare the vegetables and divide them into a bowl for each serving you need. Warm up enough water to fill the number of bowls you are preparing.
1-2 tbsp of white miso paste
handful of dried, shiitake mushrooms, sliced
handful of wakame seaweed flakes (or other seaweed of your choice)
fresh vegetables (zucchini, capsicum/bell pepper, green or red chili pepper, cabbage, spinach, etc), sliced thinly
handful of mung bean sprouts
zucchini and/or pumpkin for ‘noodles' (or any other squash you like)
Put the water on the stove to start warming up, and while you're waiting for it add the seaweed and shiitake to each of the bowls. Break up the shiitake into smaller pieces so they will soften more quickly. Start slicing the remaining vegetables, except for the zucchini and pumpkin to be used as noodles. When the water is warm enough, add enough to the bowls to cover the seaweed and dried shiitake and allow them to soak and soften while you continue to prepare the rest of the vegetables.
If you're using any vegetables, like cabbage that are a bit crunchy you might want to add them to a separate mixing bowl, add a little sea salt and massage and squeeze them until they are more tender. In my soup I added some red cabbage kim chi that I made yesterday, so it wasn't fully fermented and sour, but very tender, similar to the effect that you get from cooking.
To prepare the ‘noodles', cut open the pumpkin or squash and, using a spoon, remove the seeds and any mushy pulp that was around the seeds by scraping them out with the spoon. Zucchini can be cut in half lengthwise. Use a vegetable peeler to make long strips from the zucchini and pumpkin. Try to make the strips as wide as possible.
Lay the strips out on a cutting board and stack about 4-5 strips on top of each other. Then starting at one of the short ends roll the strips up. Use a sharp knife to cut across the roll of strips in whatever thickness you prefer. I felt like linguini, so I cut my strips as narrow as I could.
For each bowl, dissolve 1-2 tbsp of miso paste in some warm water by putting it in a cup, adding the water and mixing with a spoon or fork until dissolved. Pour the miso into the bowl. Do this for each bowl in turn. Divide the remaining sliced vegetables and noodles to the bowls and top up with the warm water and stir. Serve and enjoy!