Discover Miso, a Japanese Power Food

A soybean paste miso is not only one of the staples of Japanese cuisine but also an essential seasoning which brings out the best in many dishes. Besides a classic miso soup, it accompanies many meals and tastes delicious with stir-fried foods, stews, pickled fish and meat, vegetables and fries. Ramen with miso is also popular.

One of the simplest but most powerful ways to enjoy a miso is to cook a miso soup with your favorite vegetables. As the seasons change in Japan, so do the ingredients for miso soup,  adding some delight to everyday life.

What is miso?

Miso is a condiment produced by fermenting soybeans, rice or wheat together with salt and koji culture. Sometimes soybeans are called the ‘meat of the field’ because of the high amount of protein. Fermented soybeans contain a variety of amino acids and vitamins, making it healthy when consumed in moderation. Loaded with other nutrients and fibers, miso helps the body maintain the balance and contributes to a daily diet of Japanese people.

There are many types of miso, classified by the main ingredient (rice, barley or soybean miso) or color due to the manufacturing method (red, white miso). It is produced throughout Japan, but rice miso is the most popular nationwide. In the Chubu region, there is a soybean miso, and further to the south, barley miso is picking up. The fermentation of miso varies depending on the climate and average rainfall, and there are many regional miso soups with local ingredients that are definitely worth trying or making for yourself.

Miso types and key features

Miso comes in many varieties, so make sure to give them all a try - it’s loaded with savory possibilities!
・Rice miso, made from rice. Many kinds, most of which help the sweetness of rice stand out.
Barley miso, made from barley. It has a strong barley aroma and refreshing taste.
Beans miso, made from soybeans. Nutritionally dense, with a uniquely salty taste and often used in stews.

Mixed  miso

Mixed miso (awase-miso) is a very popular condiment in Japan. It combines the delicate flavors of different miso types and is widely used as a multipurpose flavoring. Combining regional varieties of miso reduces and compensates their distinct characters and results in a mild taste. Red miso soup is also famous in Japan, a mixture of a soybean and rice miso.

How to choose miso

One important factor to look for when differentiating the miso is a hole in a package - means it’s still under a fermentation process. Miso changes its taste over time so seek out for the package with holes if you want to enjoy its different stages of fermenting.

How to store miso

Miso is a fermented food, so its color may change due to the time and temperature even unopened. The best way to keep it protected is to store it in the refrigerator or freezer. After opening, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the miso, under the lid, for extra protection against oxidation.

Summary

Miso is a staple food with countless types, indispensable to Japanese people. Since the ingredients vary from region to region, we recommend you to enjoy its local taste. Making miso soup from scratch can be time-consuming, so there are many instant miso soups, sold in supermarkets and convenience stores throughout Japan and in other countries.