Miso is a natural flavor enhancer. The soybean paste is usually used in Asian dishes, most often in Japanese cuisine. It is called miso and is used as the basis for soups and many other dishes. But it is becoming increasingly popular around the world. The process of fermenting miso most likely came from China and was brought by Buddist monks to Japan, where it has been produced since the eighth century.
From Wikipedia: “Miso (みそ or 味噌?) is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji (the fungus Aspergillus oryzae) and sometimes rice, barley, or other ingredients. The result is a thick paste used for sauces and spreads, pickling vegetables or meats, and mixing with dashi soup stock to serve as miso soup called miso shiru (味噌汁), a Japanese culinary staple. High in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, miso played an important nutritional role in feudal Japan. Miso is still widely used in Japan, both in traditional and modern cooking, and has been gaining worldwide interest.
Typically, miso is salty, but its flavor and aroma depend on various factors in the ingredients and fermentation process. Different varieties of miso have been described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity, and savory. The traditional Chinese analogue of miso is known as dòujiàng.”
“The taste, aroma, texture, and appearance of miso all vary by region and season. Other important variables that contribute to the flavor of a particular miso include temperature, duration of fermentation, salt content, variety of kōji, and fermenting vessel. The most common flavor categories of miso are:
Although white and red (shiromiso and akamiso) are the most common types of misos available, different varieties may be preferred in particular regions of Japan. In the eastern Kantō region that includes Tokyo, the darker brownish akamiso is popular while in the western Kansai region encompassing Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe the lighter shiromiso is preferred.”
“The ingredients used to produce miso may include any mix of soybeans, barley, rice, buckwheat, millet, rye, wheat, hemp seed, and cycad, among others. Lately, producers in other countries have also begun selling miso made from chickpeas, corn, azuki beans, amaranth, and quinoa. Fermentation time ranges from as little as five days to several years.”
Storage and preparation:
“Miso typically comes as a paste in a sealed container requiring refrigeration after opening. Natural miso is a living food containing many beneficial microorganisms such as Tetragenococcus halophilus which can be killed by overcooking. For this reason, the miso should be added to soups or other foods being prepared just before they are removed from the heat. Using miso without any cooking may be even better. Outside Japan, a popular practice is to only add miso to foods that have cooled to preserve kōjik in cultures in miso. Nonetheless, miso and soy foods play a large role in the Japanese diet, and many cooked miso dishes are popular.”
Nutrition and health:
“Claims that miso is high in vitamin B12 have been contradicted in some studies. Some experts suggest that miso is a source of Lactobacillus acidophilus. Miso is relatively high in salt which can contribute to increased blood pressure in the small percentage of the population with sodium-sensitive prehypertension or hypertension.”
Miso as raw food:
Strictly speaking, most of the miso available in Europe and the United States is not of raw food quality as it consists of ingredients that have been steamed. If you want to make sure the miso you buy is truly raw, you should only purchase miso from select producers who are attentive to quality in both the production and transport process.
Miso is generally sold in plastic bag or jars.
Miso can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 18 months.
Light miso is usually less salty.