Miso means ‘fermented beans’ in Japanese. In Japan, people begin their day with a bowl of miso soup, believed to stimulate digestion and energise the body. A traditional ingredient in Japanese and Chinese diets, miso paste is made from fermented soybeans and grains and contains millions of beneficial bacteria. There are hundreds of different types of miso and different versions are linked with regional cuisines, identities and flavours.
The protein-rich paste is highly popular as it provides an instant flavour foundation. It adds the fifth taste, known as ‘umami’, to all sorts of dishes including soups/broths, salad dressings, vegetables, stews, glazes, and marinades.
Miso is rich in essential minerals and a good source of various B vitamins, vitamins E, K and folic acid. As a fermented food, miso provides the gut with beneficial bacteria that help us to stay healthy, vibrant and happy; good gut health is known to be linked to our overall mental and physical wellness.
The most common type of miso is made from only soybeans, but the variety and ratio of raw ingredients can vary. Some miso pastes are made from cultured wheat or millet or combinations of different grains and beans. The length of fermentation time can affect the flavour; ranging from sweet and mild to salty and rich. The colour is a fairly good indicator of the strength in flavour. The texture can vary too. Miso made from a wholegrain is typically saltier than that made from a hulled grain.
White Miso (Shiro)
Made from soybeans and rice and fermented for no longer than two months. Shiro (means “white” in Japanese) is light in colour and sweet to mildly salty. Shiro is a great gateway miso, very versatile and provides a bit of oomph to salad dressings or sautéed vegetables.
Yellow Miso (Shinsu)
Another mild type that is fermented for slightly longer than white miso. Yellow miso is adaptable in a wide range of recipes.
Red Miso (Aka)
If a recipe calls for dark miso, you’ll want to use an aka or red miso. Russet in colour, this type is made from a higher proportion of soybeans, is fermented for up to three years, and is saltier and deeper in flavour. Its full flavour is best used in hearty dishes like stews and tomato sauces. Use with caution - its flavour can over-power other ingredients.
Barley Miso (Mugi)
Made from barley and soybeans, mugi miso usually has a longer fermentation process than most white miso. It has a strong barley aroma, but is still mild and slightly sweet in flavour.
10 WAYS TO USE MISO IN RECIPES:
1. Use light coloured miso as a dairy substitute in place of milk, butter and salt in creamed soups.
2. Puree with tofu and lemon juice in place of sour cream.
3. Blend light miso with vinegar, olive oil and herbs for salad dressing.
4. Use unpasteurised miso in marinades to help tenderise animal protein and break down vegetable fibre.
5. Use the dark rice or barley miso, thinned with cooking water, as a sauce for sautéed root vegetables or winter squash.
6. Use dark miso in a vegetable-bean casserole to supply plenty of high quality protein.
7. Make cheese for pizza and wraps with yellow miso and firm tofu.
8. Make a spread using white miso, peanut butter and apple juice to thin.
9. Make a pate with tofu, garlic, white miso, tahini, lemon juice and dulse flakes.
10. Add miso to dipping sauce for spring rolls, nori make rolls or raw vegetables.