Miso Paste 101

Photo courtesy of Japanese Cooking 101

Photo courtesy of Japanese Cooking 101

What is miso?

Miso is Japanese fermented bean paste, often made from soy, barley or rice. Kojikin, a type of fungus, and salt are added to the base ingredient before its aging process. If you think it sounds gross, think of it as cheese with a Japanese twist to it. It can age between six and 36 months, but that's what gives miso its texturally quirky flavor. What's more mind-boggling about miso is that its taste varies from sweet to salty. A combination of rice and miso soup is a staple in Japan.

Why the different colors?

Miso's color comes from the fermentation period and the type of ingredient it is made from (such as soy or barley). If the color of miso is darker, it typically has a stronger taste and is usually saltier. There are white, yellow, red and brown miso pastes. White miso is the mildest and sweetest, and is often used in soups.

What's awesome about miso...

...is that it has a whole bunch of antioxidants which helps in fighting infections. Also, despite its crazily high sodium content, research has shown that diets containing miso lower the risk of cardiovascular problems. So the next time you feel thirsty after having a bowl of miso soup, fear not. What's great is that miso is one of the few high-salt foods that doesn't affect your body negatively.

Photo courtesy of Kirsten's Kitchen

Photo courtesy of Kirsten's Kitchen

How to use miso:

  • Soup: boil water with miso paste and add tofu cubes.
  • Salad: a 5-minute carrot-ginger dressing works perfectly for lazy days in.
  • Salmon: glaze with miso and some brown sugar, then broil it.
  • Poultry: ┬ápair miso-ginger chicken with fried rice for an Asian-inspired dinner.

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