Miso actually originated in China and in the 1st century AD Buddhist monks took the miso pastes to Japan – hence miso soup.
The miso is made from rice, barley or wheat (or just from soya beans) – the cooked soya beans and rice (or wheat or whatever is used) is mixed with water, salt and a cultured starter (koji) to start the fermentation process.
This mixture is left to ferment and mature in cedar wood vats for anything from 2 weeks to 5 years and the taste varies from sweet and mild to intense and richly savoury.
It’s very healthy, high in protein and vitamin B 12 and a very important component in vegetarian and vegan diets.
There are loads of different kinds of miso with varying colours:
Shinshu miso (Light-yellow miso) – pale yellow to yellowish brown and is the most common kind and has a mild taste – it can be used in a host of different dishes.
Red miso (the most common one) – red to dark brown with a strong, salty taste and is very versatile – great for all kinds of food .
Shiro miso (sweet white miso) – light in colour and texture with a sweet taste, its’ always has a smoother texture. It’s fermented for a very short time (no more than 2 to 8 weeks.
Hatcho miso – the most expensive one of all is rich, thick and dark and made only from soya beans and the best koji on the market.
Mugi miso – made from barley and soy bean with a chunky texture that’s good in stews.
Genmai miso – made from brown rice and soya beans and has a rich, nutty flavour.
When you add miso to a stew or soup, add it at the end of the cooking time and try not to boil it.
Miso can be used to make soup, it’s great for marinating meat or chicken and can be used in stir-fries and stews – in fact, it’s a really great ingredient for any kitchen.
HOW TO USE IT:
Diluted with water to make a stock base or turn into soup, sauces, gravies or stews.
Whisk with oil, lemon or orange juice and grated ginger to make a super salad dressing.
Apart from the sweet white miso that should be used immediately, can be kept for weeks or even a month or two in the fridge.