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Superfood: Japanese Miso 味噌

I always have this readily in my refrigerator. A must-have, I would say if you’re into Japanese cooking. What is Miso 味噌 みそand how do we use it? A simple way to explain, Miso is fermented soya bean paste.

Typically being processed together with salt, Miso tastes salty undoubtedly. However, different regions use different ingredients and fermentation processes, their taste and aroma, hence differ accordingly.

There are mainly 3 kinds of Miso paste – rice miso, soya bean miso and wheat miso.

Here’s a rough idea of what made up the miso paste:
Rice Miso               soya beans, rice and salt.
Soya bean Miso    soya beans and salt only.
Wheat miso           soya beans, wheat and salt.

Rice Miso (kome-miso 米みそ)

  • Most commonly found and popular in Japan. 80-90% of the miso paste you see in the supermakets are rice miso paste.
  • There are red miso (aka-miso 赤味噌), white miso (shiro-miso 白味噌) and light miso (tanshoku-miso 淡色味噌).
  • Aka-miso has a pungent salty taste. Eg.  Sendai Miso (仙台みそ).
  • Tanshoku-miso  gives a sweeter taste without overpowering the original taste of other ingredients. Eg. Shinshu-miso (信州味噌).
  • Use as dip sauce, marinade or add into miso soup.

* I use aka-miso more as a dip sauce or marinade. When it comes to making miso soup. I prefer to use tanshoku-miso more than the rest. I called it light miso (tanshoku-miso 淡色味噌)because of its natural  pale-yellowish colour, it doesn’t mean they are lighter in calories.

Soya bean Miso (mame-miso 豆みそ)

  • Made from only fine grade soya beans and salt. Has a thick and stronger taste compared to rice miso.
  • Mostly popular in Central and Kansai regions of Japan especially in Aichi, Mie and Gifu.
  • Good examples → sanshu-miso (三州味噌), Hatcho-miso(八丁味噌) and Mikawa-akamiso (三河赤味噌).

* Since my son has G6PD deficiency, I do not usually go for anything that has 100% beans in it.

Wheat Miso (mugi-miso 麦みそ)

  • Also known as inaka-miso (田舎みそ), literally translates as countryside Miso.
  • More popular in the countryside, particularly in Kyushu regions, Yamaguchi and Ehime.
  • Made from wheat malt and soya bean. Taste light with a sweet flavour. Here are some examples.
  • Not suitable for those who are looking for gluten-free miso. Wheat malt is added.
  • Examples → Setouchi mugi-miso (瀬戸内麦味噌), Nagasaki-miso (長崎味噌) and Satsuma-miso (薩摩味噌)

There is a vast choice on how to use Miso. From marinades for meat or fish to salad dressing, the most common way which I can relate is to use together with Japanese broth (dashi だし) and serve as miso soup  (miso-shiru みそ汁).

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