Most of the foods offer Japanese labels (although thanks to regulations, an English "nutrition information" sticker is usually somewhere on the package) and finding the place can be tricky (follow the website directions closely), but I found that once I arrived, Maido offers the foodie equivalent of an excellent used book store - someplace in which you could get a little lost browsing.
Here are some highlights of what I purchased. My mother was coming for Easter and hesitantly agreed to try an all-Japanese meal (I sold her on the idea that it would be more healthy than ham and potato salad, which it is, although that's not saying much).
Onto miso soup! I pulled these recipes from http://www.epicurious.com/, although Martha Stewart's new cookbook also features them in almost identical form. Apparently, there are few ways to make it. Here's what you will need:
1 oz. kombu (kelp)
1 cup katsuo bushi (dried bonito flakes)
1/4-1/2 cup dried wakame (seaweed)
1/4 cup shiro miso paste (white fermented soybean paste)
1/2 pound soft tofu
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion greens
Miso soup starts with dashi, "Japanese Sea Stock." To make dashi, you put about 1 ounce of kombu, or dried kelp, into 6 cups of water and bring to a boil (pictured right). Once boiled, you add 1 cup bonito flakes (pictured left) to the mix, remove from heat and let stand for 3 minutes. Bonito flakes are a type of dried fish (skipjack mackeral, according to one website) and have the consistency of flaked prosciutto - a bit oily. They're also very pungent. (My cats go a little crazy when I open the bag). After three minutes, strain all of that stuff out with as fine a sieve as you can find. I strain mine twice, because I find the bonito to be just that strong.
And congratulations - the hardest part of making miso soup is now over for you. Once you have the stock, simply heat it up (if it's not hot already), take a cup out and mix with a 1/4 cup of miso shiro paste to blend it (pictured right). Add the blended mix to the stock, along with 1/2 pound soft tofu cut into cubes and thinly sliced scallion greens.
If you'd like seaweed in your miso, soak 1/4 cup of wakame in a warm water about an inch over the wakame until it is reconstituted and add that to the soup, too.
And voila! Miso soup, ready to serve. I think it tastes better than most restaurants to make it fresh, but it's not too different from what you might get. It's also nice to add the ingredients according to your taste preference.
Thanks to my mom for helping me with the pictures and being such a supportive taster.
Maido is located at 36 N. Narberth Avenue, Narberth, Pa., http://www.maidookini.com/.