One of the most important ingredients in Japanese cuisine, miso is becoming more popular across the world. The thick paste is made from fermented soybeans mixed with other ingredients. An indispensable staple in Japan, it’s very versatile and easy to use.
Depending on the ingredients and fermentation process, the paste can take on a myriad of flavors, from salty to sweet. It can be made from chickpeas, corn, quinoa, and more, but Japan typically favors traditional soybeans. Miso is generally categorized as white, red, or mixed, with white being the mildest. Find a kitchen in Japan and you’ll almost certainly find a stash of miso. Read on to find out some of the most common uses.
This iconic and tasty soup accompanies many traditional Japanese meals. It is made from a simple mixture of dashi broth and miso, tofu, green onions, and seaweed. Red miso gives the soup a stronger flavor, while white gives it a sweeter taste. The solid ingredients reflect the season and provide contrasting colors. Common choices are shrimp, mushroom, potatoes, and clams.
Next up is seafood. As an island country, Japan consumes a lot of fish, and there are many delicious ways to dress up the simple meal. One popular method is making a miso glaze to go over broiled fish. Simply mix the paste with rice wine and sake to make a tasty marinade. The ingredients can easily be adapted to your favorite ingredients, so don’t be afraid to get creative.
Many Japanese noodle soups use miso to give more depth to the flavor. It is added to standard dishes like ramen, udon, or hotpot to create a heavier taste. Hailing from Hokkaido, miso ramen is one of the most obvious examples. Basically, the paste gives the broth a nutty, hearty flavor, making it the perfect dish for cold winter nights.
Pickled food is very popular in Japan, so of course there is a miso version. Cucumbers, radishes, cabbage, and eggplants are frequently pickled in miso. This gives it a sweeter flavor than standard pickles. It is also extremely easy to make, using just the paste, soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar.
Mochi and Dango
These soft, chewy white treats are a common sight at festivals, though they are available throughout the year. Made from glutinous rice, the sticky sweets pair wonderfully with a savory, sweet glaze. The basic ingredients are the paste, soy sauce, and sugar.
As you can see, miso is a great multi-purpose ingredient to have in the kitchen. Since it has a naturally strong flavor, it is simple to use and can be mixed with almost anything. Additionally, it makes a great base for stronger flavorings like spices, or as a contrast to sweet ingredients. This was by no means an exhaustive list, and new recipes are continuously being tested. Grab a tub of this deliciousness and let your creativity run wild!