Prep-Time: 1 minute!
Requires: Hot water or microwave, something to stir with
Purchased at: World Market, Friendship Heights
Review in Brief: Mostly broth, it still manages to be a cheap cup-o-soup that doesn't suck.
Full Review: I love miso soup, because it comes free with sushi dinners, it has a subtle, distinctive taste, and if you don't eat it fast enough it settles and you have to stir it.
My wife and I popped into World Market in Friendship Heights while waiting for our table at The Cheesecake Factory. I saw the store from the mezzanine and was hoping for a kind of Trader Joes meets ethnic food section at Shoppers, but it was mostly a Pier One knockoff. Fortunately, just past the $15 wine section there was about 7 aisles of "international" fare, mostly candies and snacks (such as delicious Ginger Chews), but also some curries, spices, and oxymoronically upper-shelf instant meals like the miso.
They had two San-J offerings; a San-J Mild Miso featuring the profile of a Japanese woman in a kimono drinking from a bowl, or a San-J Dark Miso, with a Japanese dude doing the same. I spent a couple of minutes arranging the soups so that the man and woman were facing each other (happy meal times) or back to back (angry, post-argument miso consumption) before grabbing two of each.I decided to try the "man's" miso first, because I have a long history of allowing Japanese food to validate my masculinity.
Opening the cup revealed two individual packets, one of dehydrated tofu and seaweed, the other of miso paste--no worrying about puncturing the cup's thin paper top and having powdery crap all in my bag. The fact that the miso is in paste form was encouraging, perhaps unjustifiably.
The miso paste is relatively easy to squeeze out of its packet, but make sure you mix the soup well before drinking.
The cup itself is not insulated, so handle carefully after you put the hot water in (I used the hot water tap on the office coffee machine).
I was surprised on how much the tofu cubes and seaweed revitalized in the hot water. The dehydrated tofu was not as good as fresh tofu, but the seaweed was crisp and flavorful.
I hadn't had "dark" miso before, and it took a couple sips to get used to the stronger flavor, but I like it. Because I am a man. After spooning broth into my mouth a couple times I gave up and drank it as illustrated on the cup (I still needed the spoon for stirring).
All in all, it was actually almost as good as the miso I've had in restaurants, although whether that is a commendation of San-J or a condemnation of the restaurants I frequent is left up to further study. The tofu lacked texture and flavor, but the broth and seaweed both pleasantly exceeded my expectations, especially for the price, just slightly more than a regular cup ramen. I will definitely be buying more of this.