Are you a fan of Japanese cuisine? If so, you may be familiar with miso soup, made by adding the umami flavour paste. Originating from the land of the rising sun, this is is an ingredient that has become familiar to people all over the world, as it makes a great addition to soups and other dishes.
For those of you who are relatively new to the idea of Japanese cuisine, don’t worry – we have you covered. Let’s see if we can figure out what does it taste like by looking at the ingredients, preparation and uses of this paste.
If you find yourself wanting to experiment with new dishes and perhaps infusing your cooking with some Japanese culture, you can try adding it next time you make a soup or a sauce. We hope that you find this article helpful in informing you about this traditional condiment.
Table of Contents
What is Miso?
It is a paste that can be made with fermented soybeans, white or brown rice, barley, or a mixture of soybeans and grains, with each variation having its own colour and taste properties. The key ingredient is Aspergillus oryzae or Koji in Japanese, which is the fungus responsible for the fermentation.
It comes in all sorts of varieties, it is a very versatile paste that can be added to different flavour palettes. The taste of it will depend on the type and proportion of the ingredients used and the fermentation process. The paste consistency makes it a perfect addition to soups, sauces, salad dressings and other dishes.
Depending on the components used and the ageing process, it may look and taste differently. Learning about various properties of this paste will help you choose the one that is most suitable for achieving a certain taste.
It comes in different colours, with the main difference being light and dark. The ingredients are mixed together and left to ferment for some time, and the longer the mixture is left to ferment, the richer the colour and taste will be.
It can also be separated by the main ingredient from which it was made. There may be soybeans, rice, barley, or a mixture of soybeans and grains.
Nutritional value of Miso
It is a favourite component of many dishes in different parts of Asia, and it has been gaining popularity across the world. One of the reasons for this is that in addition to its flavour, it is very good for you.
This product is plant-based and very high in nutritional value. Miso comes packed with amino-acids, vitamin K, a range of B-vitamins, manganese, copper, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium and phosphorus as well as choline. It is a good source of probiotics, and thanks to the fermentation process the nutrients are easily absorbed by our bodies.
Soybeans are a great source of protein and contain plenty of the essential elements that our bodies require. Miso made from soybeans can count as part of your daily protein intake, it is much lighter than some other sources of protein, and it is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Health Benefits of Miso
1. Immune system boost
Miso paste is beneficial for your immune system because it is full of probiotics. It helps the body fight infections and reduces the presence of harmful bacteria, strengthening your immune system’s defence against disease.
2. Aids digestion
Probiotics such as Aspergillus oryzae found in miso can aid the digestive system by improving gut flora. The fermentation process involved in the making of the paste also contributes to the body’s ability to digest and absorb the nutrients from the food we consume.
Miso is full of antioxidants, so it can play a major role in detoxifying your body and fighting free-radicals, the presence of which has been linked to cancer.
Other potential benefits of consuming miso have been claimed by scientific studies. Please note that more research is needed to back up these claims. They include:
- Supporting heart health
- Balancing cholesterol levels
- Reducing blood pressure
- Protecting against type 2 diabetes
- Promoting brain health
Although miso is considered safe for consumption generally, there is a number of conditions that may be affected by eating it regularly. If you suffer from any of these, you may want to ask your doctor about making it a part of your diet and be aware of the amount you consume.
High in salt
Due to its high salt content, anyone who has a restriction in their recommended sodium intake should keep an eye on how much miso they eat.
Can cause blood-thinning
Vitamin K found in miso in large quantities can affect the thinning of the blood, so it is advisable to consult your doctor if you take any medication.
May affect thyroid function
Those who have poor thyroid function may want to look into the effect soybeans can have on thyroid gland as they are considered a goitrogen.
Also, for those who are conscious of the way our agricultural practices can influence the environment, miso may have some bad news as many types of it contain soybeans. This may also be a concern for those who wish to avoid GM (genetically modified) foods, as soybeans are widely produced by using GM technology.
Types of miso, flavours and uses
1. White miso
The light variety of white miso provides a mild flavour and tends to be slightly sweeter. It is aged for the shortest period of time, around 2 months, and is a lighter version of the condiment both in colour and taste.
This paste can be paired perfectly with sour tastes, it can also go well with fish and green vegetables. Being the mildest type of miso this is a good one to start with, as it will generally go with anything you want to cook.
2. Yellow miso
This paste is aged slightly longer than the white miso. It can be light brown or yellow in appearance and is usually made with white rice or soybeans. It is less salty than other types of miso and doesn’t have much of a kick, being the mild version of this paste.
3. Red miso
Red miso is the darker version of this paste. It is produced by longer fermentation time and has more full-bodied flavour with earthy tones. It is very rich, distinctive and generally saltier than the light miso paste.
This type of miso is normally aged the longest, around 2-3 years, which produces strong taste quality. It can be made with grains or soybeans and it goes well with root vegetables and nutty earthy flavours.
Keep an eye on how much red miso you put in your food. It has a powerful taste that may take over the flavour palette if you’re not careful.
4. Barley miso
Barley miso is made with – you guessed it – barley. It may also contain soybeans. This paste is normally fermented for longer than the white and yellow varieties. It will retain some of the malty flavours from the barley, but will be milder and sweeter in taste than the red miso.
Understanding different kinds and flavours of miso may seem confusing at first. The basic ingredients and process by which it is made are very similar across different varieties. Most types are created by combining soybeans and grains with salt and Koji bacteria and leaving it to ferment for some time.
The flavour of miso will depend on a number of factors. The lighter paste will be milder and can be sweeter than other varieties. The darker paste will be more rich and salty and may have an earthy quality to it.
For those of you who want to get an idea of what different types of miso look like here is a helpful video:
Since miso is made by the fermentation process, this paste will have a malty fermented taste as a general rule. You can adjust the strength of the flavour by using varying quantities of the paste and experimenting with different types of miso.
Apart from its rich flavour that can really bring some culture and variety into your kitchen, miso is full of surprising health benefits.
Don’t we all want a condiment that not only makes soups and salads taste delicious but also provides us with a ton of vitamins and minerals?
Wherever your culinary adventure will take you next, we hope that you found this article helpful in getting to know what does miso – the mysterious fermented paste – taste like.