Miso is produced by fermenting Soy beans usually with salt and ‘koji’ a filamentous fungus, sometimes with rice, barley and other selected ingredients. A thick paste is created and this is used for sauces, spreads, soup stocks, stews and for pickling vegetables or meats.
It is a Japanese food staple, high in protein, minerals and vitamins. Used in Japan universally since Feudal times, it has a salty flavour and comes in a myriad of varieties, depending on the ingredients added during the fermentation process. In China the equivalent product is known as ‘doujiang’.
Miso also has a rich history. Earlier Misos were made from fish and grain dating as far back as 14000 BC. Between 1337 and 1573 (Muromachi era) buddhist monks experimented and started grinding soy beans into a paste and the modern form of Miso became commonplace in Japanese diets.
There are many types of Miso, but all generally fall under the following types.
Kome Miso – Rice Miso
This can be yellowish, yellowish white, red or light brown. It is favoured in Eastern Japan.
Mugi Miso – Barley Miso
Often called White Miso, but it is different. There is also a reddish version. Mugi Miso is said to have a distinctive scent.
Mame Miso – Soy Bean Miso
This is darker and has more of a reddish brown colour that Kome Miso. It is somewhat astringent and not at all sweet. It is also labelled as ‘Hatcho’ Miso. This Miso matures over a long period.
Chougou – Mixed Miso
This comes in many types and flavours. It is generally a mix of other miso compounds. It can be done to take the edge off the singular Miso. By combining Mame (salty) with kome, a milder flavour is created.
Aka Miso – Red Miso
This is an aged product, often fermented for over a year. Because of this the colour changes during fermentation from white to red. Depending on the soy beans used and the quality of beans, the colour will vary. For instance steamed soy beans provide more colour than boiled beans. Salty and astringent this is often a much stronger tasting Miso.
Shiro Miso – White Miso
This Miso is produced widely and is probably the most common Miso. Ingredients include rice, barley and a small quantity of soy beans. More beans and the miso will turn brown or red. White miso has only a short fermentation. The taste is sweet with a light savoury flavour.
Unami is one of the 5 basic flavours recognised in Japanese cuisine. It is a savoury flavour, often said to be meaty or brothy. Mame Miso, Akamiso and Shiromiso all have a degree of Umami.
At Tang we have a very wide and comprehensive range of Misos. Come and inspect, make your choice or experiment with each Miso flavour. Find the miso range on our website. It is an absolutely standard component of so many Japanese dishes. From Tang: The Asian Food Emporium we ask you to enjoy this wonderful and healthy staple from Japan.