Miso is a paste prepared from fermenting soy beans with a variety of grains, adding a body of flavor and aroma to many Japanese dishes. In the old days miso were made in homes all over Japan, but now it’s most often purchased in the grocery. There are regional differences in how the Japanese like miso. Those in colder regions like Sapporo prefer theirs to be saltier, while those living in more temperate climes will go for the milder, lighter taste. The soy beans are steamed, salted, and crushed, then a fermenting agent called koji mold is added. Its taste deepens and the aroma is more pungent the longer its fermented. Miso is mainly used to make soups that accompany every meal.
Miso can be identified based on the koji mixed with the soybeans, or the color and saltiness of the paste. Kome-miso, made from rice koji, is the most common type of miso. A variation made in Nagano called shinshu-miso is very popular and can be mixed with other types of miso. The remaining two types are mugi-miso, made with koji from barley, and mame-miso, which uses soybean koji. Aka-miso is the saltiest kind of miso. It makes a good stock for hearty soups. The darker color comes from its longer fermentation time. Yellow miso is another way to call shinshu miso; it’s versatile and is the best choice to store in the kitchen. Shiro miso, or white miso, is the sweetest and mildnest kind of miso, perfect to add in dressings, salads, and fish marinades.
Here’s a very simple recipe to make miso soup. It can be prepared with all sorts of vegetables. If you’ll be using hard vegetables like carrots, you will have to simmer it in the stock longer to soften it.
- 3 teaspoons of miso (shiro-miso is the most recommended choice)
- 1/2 block of tofu
- 1/2 leek or one whole scallion
- 3 cups of dashi soup stock. You can make your own soup stock from scratch, or buy ready to cook powdered stock from the store.
- Chop the leek or scallion and cut the tofu into cubes.
- Heat the dashi stock in a pan. Add the tofu cubes and simmer for three minutes.
- Put the miso into a bowl. Scoop a little of the dashi stock and slowly dissolve the miso.
- Once it’s dissolved add it to the remaining stock in the pan. Drop in the leek or scallion pieces and take off the heat immediately. Miso quickly loses its flavor if boiled.
[tags]miso, japan, soup, recipe[/tags]