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I am barely exaggerating when I say I could eat this spicy soup for dinner every single night and be happy. Perhaps I would take an occasional break to acknowledge Meatless Monday; perhaps not. Would I miss old friends like mashed potatoes, spinach pie and lamb burgers? Sure. But I would have a bowl of delicious soup to ease my pain. Kidding aside, this is my perfect bowl. It is salty because of the broth and miso, sweet from the pork, spicy thanks to gochujang, umami from mushrooms and that lovely miso, comforting because it is brothy, interesting because of the multiple textures going on. It is even better on the second day, a factor becoming increasingly important as our calendars crowd and I try to make dinners ahead to be reheated. It is malleable: perhaps you want turkey or tofu instead of pork, or you have a tiny bit of Andouille sausage left from another meal that you think might just do the trick. (Spoiler: it does.) Maybe gochujang is not your thing– you prefer sriracha or no heat at all. Not a problem.

Some of the ingredients may be new to you, but all should be available in a well-stocked supermarket or local Asian market. Though I was initially intimidated by miso, I find it to be a versatile pantry ingredient now, useful for a quick bowl of broth at lunchtime, my new favorite salad dressing or a rub/sauce for salmon. I add mirin to all manner of noodle dishes and stir fries, and use gochujang to make marinade for chicken wings, season beef jerky and jazz up roasted cauliflower. Even if making this soup means a few extra items on the grocery list, I think you’ll get good use from them– plus, if you’re as smitten as me, you’ll probably want to make the soup multiple times! The original recipe, link below, called for additional flavors including a boiled egg and sesame seeds. I think either or both would be nice, and I like a few leaves of cilantro to garnish my bowl sometimes. Make the soup your own with additions or subtractions and know that you have a warming, filling, easy meal to add to your winter rotation.

spicy pork & miso soup with udon noodles

Spicy Pork & Miso Soup with Udon Noodles (adapted from this recipe)

  • 6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 T. canola oil
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 1 T. grated fresh ginger
  • up to 1 T. gochujang*
  • 2 T. mirin
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1/3 c. chopped green onions
  • 5 c. stock (chicken or vegetable recommended)
  • 1/4 c. red miso paste
  • 14-16 oz. udon noodles**

Place the shiitake mushrooms in a large mug or small bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to soak for 15 mins.; remove the mushrooms and slice into strips or dice into 1/2″ pieces. Set aside. Reserve 1/2 c. of soaking liquid to use in later steps.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the ground pork, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, and cook until brown. Add the ginger and gochujang to the browned pork and mix; cook for a minute or two. Add the mirin, soy sauce, pepper and reserved soaking liquid and bring to a boil. Lower the heat slightly and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid reduces almost completely, about 5-6 mins. Don’t let the mixture dry completely; stop cooking when it looks like cooked pork with 1/4 c. or so of liquid added. Mix in the green onions, then add the stock, raise the heat slightly and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the shiitake mushrooms, lower the heat again to just below medium and simmer, uncovered, for 8 mins.

Put the miso paste in a mug or small bowl and ladle hot broth over it, about 1/2 c. or so. Mix gently to break up the miso and create an even, thick sauce. It will look grainy, which is fine. Add the miso mixture to the soup and stir to combine. Add the udon noodles and continue to cook just until the mixture is warmed through, about 2-3 mins. Use tongs to put noodles in the bottom of each serving bowl and then ladle the broth, pork and mushrooms over the top. Serve immediately. Leftovers, covered tightly, will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

*1 T. of gochujang makes for a fairly spicy bowl, which is great for me but sometimes too much for other folks, like my poor husband. Recently, I’ve been making the recipe with about 1 tsp. gochujang and adding more to my own bowl just before eating. If you don’t have gochujang at home, substitute sriracha, 1 tsp. at a time, to taste. The soup is also wonderful with no heat, but I would recommend adding a little of something, just for interest.

**Udon noodles are available fresh or frozen, packaged in individual serving pouches or large bags. I have been buying fresh 7 oz. packets and use two for this recipe. When I buy a large bag, my measurement is “two handfuls plus some more”, which is completely unhelpful to you, but is visually the same as 14 oz. The good news? A little more or less will work just fine.