Published on The Doomstead Diner January 1, 2017
Miso Soup- No Ammedation Miso Soup- With Ammendation
Discuss this article at the Pantry inside the Diner
In my last Snap Card Gourmet article, I wrote about Pizza Ammendation, which is the technique of taking a fresh commercially produced Pizza available at the Deli Counters of most major food emporiums, and then adding to it various extra ingredients of your choice to make your own custom pizza, practically as good as the great pizza you remember from the small family owned Italian Pizzerias that were sprinkled around NY Shity in the 1960s & 70s. My particular favorite from my youth is the Mushroom Pizza, but I have been experimenting with some more exotic ingredients like Hearts of Palm and Smoked Salmon.
Even including the exotic ingredients, the price of a freshly baked Take n' Bake Pizza meal comes in extremely cheap. For the Pizza, I buy the "medium" size 8" Pizza which comes in at Walmart at $6. I divide that into 1/4s which I each bake separately for a Pizza meal, so the basic cost is $1.50. Additional ingredients can cost as much as $1, for expensive stuff like Hearts of Palm. 1 Can of those, usually imported from Brazil generally goes for around $5, but I get usually at least 5 if not 6 pizza meals out of one can, so slightly less than a dollar there. So for $2.50 or less, I come in with a scrumptious freshly baked pizza slice, which along with some sausage and eggs for breakfast is usually plenty for me to eat in a day. I stay well under my SNAP Card budget of $5 for the day.
For the person still with their own roof and fully equipped kitchen, this is excellent, cheap and quickly prepared food. It has a big problem though as far as a Homeless person is concerned, which is that you need some form of conventional oven (not microwave) to bake it in. At least a Toaster Oven for this, but they are electric and homeless people don't usually have accss to electricity, nor can they be toting around a toaster oven even if they can pirate electricity somewhere. Homeless cooking is generally confined either to small camping stoves with a single burner, or to open pit or trash can fires with a cooking grate over it.
If you are just working with a single burner, you are generally limited to two types of cooking, Boiling or Pan Frying/Sauteeing. The two main foods of the homeless as a result are cans of soup or vegetables which can be boiled, or eggs and bacon or sausage which can be pan fried. Rice also can be boiled or steamed, Potatoes boiled and chopped up with an onion for home fries in the pan. A big combined scramble or omellete also possible to do in one pan, although given I have more burners I don't usually do that. This is really all the cooking a homeless person needs to do, otherwise you mostly eat prepared foods at fast food joints or if you are the more healthy type of homeless person, fruits, nuts and vegetables which can be consumed raw with no cooking at all.
For today's topic and Recipes, we are going to talk about another type of ammendation, Soup Ammendation. What soup ammendation does is take a comercially produced packet of soup mix or canned soup, and adds to it more ingredients to make it more hearty and robust as a meal.
The main one I will talk about here is Miso Soup, a favorite of mine from the many Japanese restaurants I have frequented over my life, usually for a sashimi lunch. With the lunch special, you always got a cup or bowl of Miso Soup, which varied from average to excellent, depending on the restaurant. The main ingredients in a Miso soup are the Miso (a type of fermented bean curd), Tofu, Seaweed and green onions. In a good Miso soup, there were a decent amount of all the ingredients in there and a rich broth with plenty of Miso added, in the average ones they were thin on the miso and cheap on the amount of tofu in the soup. Kinda thin and runny. Rarely though at a restaurant did I get a truly bad Miso Soup.
In trying to make my own Miso Soup at home back in the day, the best I could find was dried package soup sort of like Lipton's Onion Soup, which is still the main one available although there is one other variety I picked up a while back. Basically the same though. In both cases, the Miso Soup you get by adding a cup or so of boiling water to the packet is beneath bad, it's awful.
Not that it tastes bad or anything, it does taste like Miso Soup. However, it is incredibly thin in texture, and the amount of dried tofu and seaweed that reconstitutes is miniscule. You can pretty much drink it like you would a cup of tea or coffee, or a cup of beef broth. It's not a real "soup experience".
So, even back then what I did was to buy a Tofu block and cube up some of it to ammend this soup, along with buying a package of dried seaweed and some fresh green onions to slice into thin disks and add to the soup also. This filled it out nicely, and was a good facsimile of a Japanese Restaurant Miso Soup. The miso broth though was still kind of thin. Recently though I found full quart size packages of miso paste in the refrigerated section of Carr's, which is the local variant of the Safeway chain. One tablespoon of this paste thickens up your home brew miso soup and with all the ingredients added, is now BETTER than any miso soup at even the best Japanese restaurant!
At the top of the page you see Before & After photos of Miso made at home in the digs here. Which one looks more appetizing to you?
In addition to the normal ingredients, I also add some canned mushrooms, which have a great texture and are a terrific addition to the normal recipe. So, how much does the ammended Miso Soup cost me?
The initial packet of Kikkoman comes in packages of 3 for around $5, so that is $1.66 per serving.
A block of firm tofu comes in around $2.50 average here, and I get about 4 servings from one block when I cube it up. About $.60 for the tofu.
The seaweed comes in at $1.20 for a small package, which gets about 6 servings. $.20
The Miso Paste comes in at $6 for the quart size, but I get at least 20 servings out of that for $.30.
The green Onion come in at $1 for a bunch of around 6, one per serving for around $.16
Total cost for the Gourmet, Rich and Beefy Miso Soup, slightly under $3. However, I have now found that I can substitute for the expensive package of dried Miso Soup from Kikkoman the much cheaper generic dried Onion Soup mix similar to Lipton under the store brand. Utilizing this as base, I take a full dollar off the cost here and the result tastes practically the same and the nutritional value is exactly the same. You get fabulous nutrition out of this soup, tons of protein in the Miso and the Tofu and Vitamins in the seaweed and green onion.
Far as the homeless person is concerned, this is all easy to boil up in one small pot (my next Snap Card article will cover lightweight and portable cooking gear) and very amenable to homeless cooking. However, it does have the refrigeration problem, both the Tofu and the Miso need to be kept refrigerated until you actually use them. This problem can however be resolved with a Cooler and Ice, if you have a semi-permanent tent arrangement in a Homeless Encampent, aka Obamaville. If you dispense with the Miso paste and brew up the soup with just the fresh Tofu, then if you share with 3 other homeless people you go through the whole block in one meal, so no refrigeration necessary. It's unfortunate Miso Paste isn't available in small packets like ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise, that would get rid of the storage problem you have for a large quantity of Miso paste.
Miso Soup is not my only Soup Ammendation recipe, I have another big favorite which is Southwest Blackbean soup
Now, if you want to make Miso Soup for yourself at home (or homeless), it's not so EZ as just cracking open a can of Campbells Chunky Soup. There are no canned Miso Soup varieties available here in the FSoA I have ever been able to locate. There are any number of quite good canned soups coming from both Campbell's and Progresso, although in both cases I have seen deterioration of the quality and "chunkiness" in both brands of soup. The Clam Chowder in both cases has taken a really big hit. A lot thinner now and less clams and potatoes. A lot of ammendation is necessary to get a decent bowl of clam chowder now from either company, but not going to cover that ammendation here today, I'll stick to just the Southwestern Black Bean soup for this article.
The SBB soup is a very tasty one from the Progresso folks, but like all the Chunky varieties from Campbell's, they aren't so Chunky anymore. These soups come in around $2/can now up here on the Last Great Frontier, although I usually wait for sales and stock up when they come in at 3 for $5 or so, $1.66 each. By itself with no ammendation, a single can of this soup is good for 2 meals, in combination with a bagel or a part of a Subway Hero. Ammendation though makes the soup a meal in itself, and in fact transforms it from a Soup to something more like a Gumbo.
To ammend a can of SBB soup, I usually add 1/2 can of Seasoned Black Beans, which come in at around $1/can. Then another 1/4 can of sweet corn kernels, coming in around $.90/can. The soup is now a whole lot thicker and richer, and there is a lot more of it. I'm not done yet though.
For fresh veggies, I add some chopped up and sauteed green peppers and a diced habanero pepper to make it spicier. Then I pan fry or BBQ an Italian Sausage or Bratwurst and cut it into thin disks to add to the soup, which adds animal protein and fat to up the calorie content.
The mixture is so thick and rich now that although you can still eat it solo with some sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese on top, what I usually will do at this point is steam up some rice and and ladle it over the rice pile. Now, instead of 2 meals out of the original can of SBB soup, I have more like 4 meals of Gumbo over Rice.
The original can comes in at an average price of $1.75.
1/2 Can of Seasoned Black Beans, $.45.
1/4 Can of Sweet Corn Kernels, $.25
1/4 Green Pepper, $.50
1 Habanero Pepper, $.50
1 Sausage, $1
Total cost for the base Gumbo, $4.45. Divided by 4 approximate meals (I usually get more though, like 6), that comes to around $1.11/serving. This gets ladled over the rice, which costs very little, maybe another $.30. It's a huge, tasty and filling meal for under $1.50. Adding some cheese and sour cream to it you might drive the total cost up to $1.50, but no more than that.
As with the Miso Soup, the big problem here for the Homeless person is not in the cooking, but in this case the refrigeration of the leftover soup from the initial preparation. You have a pot of soup you need to keep refrigerated for at least 4 days, which also means eating the same soup for 4 days straight. As tasty as it is, by day 3 you are ready for a change but the more days you eat something else, the longer it is leftover in the cooler, and by about the 6th or 7th day, your really don't want to eat it. It might still be OK biologicaly speaking and not make you sick with Tomane Poisoning, but even so week long leftovers are not very appetizing, even if well refrigerated.
So in this case once again you are best off to work in at least a small GROUP or TRIBE of similar Homeless people, and all share the meals and the costs together. Then the entire preparation can be consumed in one sitting. A group of 4-6 people is ideal for this, a family or a few refugee buddies. However, once you start to cook in bulk for more than just yourself, now you start to need some cooking gear beyond a persoal aluminum or stainless steel mess kit that can handle larger cooking taks for more people.
I will cover the nature of such cooking gear and how it should be used in the next installment of the SNAP Card Gourmet.