Have you discovered miso yet?
Miso has branched out. Traditionally used to give depth of flavour to Japanese dishes, miso is increasingly added as an ingredient to pep up more western dishes too.
An important part of Japanese cuisine for centuries miso is highly popular as it provides a foundation of instant flavour useful for a variety of dishes such as soups, casseroles, salad dressings, vegetables, marinades and glazes.
What is miso?
The word miso means ‘fermented beans’ in Japanese. Similar in texture to peanut butter the paste is typically a cultured mixture of soybeans with grains such as rice or barley and salt.
Miso is fermented anywhere from a few weeks to several years and the length of fermentation time affects the flavour. The shorter the fermentation time the sweeter and lighter the miso.
What are the different types of miso?
White miso (Shiro)
Fermented for no longer than two months Shiro is light in colour, sweet and only mildly salty.
Shiro is a great introduction to miso. It lends itself to many dishes and will give a nice depth of flavour to sautéed vegetables or salad dressings.
Yellow Miso (Shinsu)
Fermented slightly longer than Shiro and versatile enough to be used in a wide range of dishes.
Red Miso (Aka)
Also known as dark miso and fermented for up to three years, Aka is made from a higher percentage of soybeans.
As Aka is saltier and has a deeper flavour it is best used in casseroles and tomato-based sauces.
Barley Miso (Mugi)
Mugi has a longer fermentation than most white miso and is made from barley and soybeans. Mugi is still mild however and slightly sweet.
How nutritious is miso?
Miso is very good for you. It is a great source of antioxidants, dietary fibre and protein.
As a fermented food, miso provides the gut with beneficial bacteria known as probiotics. These help us to stay healthy by aiding with digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
Miso is high in salt, however, and so should be used sparingly.
Where can I buy miso?
The basic white miso, Shiro, is sold in most larger supermarkets but you may have to go to a specialised Japanese supermarket or whole food shop for a selection of different variations.
Melina - Assistant Editor
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