What is miso? Differences in rice, barley and soybean miso

2019-05-15 OTHERS

This post is also available in 日本語

Have you ever tried the common food miso soup that uses miso? Onigiri (rice balls), miso soup, and pickles are the standard items of a Japanese breakfast.

What kind of food is miso, which is now well-known around the world? What other dishes is it used in beside miso soup? On this occasion, we would like to introduce you to the charms of miso which supports the diet of Japanese people.

What is miso?

Miso is a food in which salt and malt are added to boiled or steamed soybeans, rice, or barley, after which it is fermented and matured. The taste of the miso greatly changes depending on the base ingredients, the salt, malt, time taken for fermentation and maturation, as well as the climate and weather of the producing area.

There are various theories about the origin of miso, but we can say for sure that miso appears in the literature of the Heian period. At the time, it was used as a form of salary for the high-level bureaucracy and was a luxury item. However, in the Muromachi era, it permeated to the level of the commoner, and has been loved for many years since that time, as an essential seasoning for the Japanese meal table.

What is miso soup?

Miso soup is the soup in which miso is dissolved in soup stock with solid ingredients.

  • What kind of miso should you choose?
  • What kind of soup stock should you use?
  • What solid ingredients should you put in?

There are limitless combinations of these three, and you can enjoy various flavors. It is a food with profound meaning, and the taste differs in each household, so it is often referred to as “Ofukuro-no-aji” (taste of mother).

You can put almost anything in it, such as vegetables, meat, seafood, or processed food. You could say, however, that the classic ingredients are tofu, fried tofu, leek, and wakame (seaweed). In recent times, instant miso soup has been sold, where you can enjoy it just by pouring in hot water, which has made it more accessible.

Types of miso

Miso can be broadly classified into the four types of rice miso, barley miso, bean miso, and mixed miso.

Rice miso

Ingredients are rice, soybeans, and salt. Approximately 80% of miso made in Japan is rice miso. This is produced in various regions around Japan. “White miso”, which is miso with a thin color, is a type of rice miso.

Barley miso

Ingredients are barley, soybeans, and salt. This is mainly made in the Chugoku, Shikoku, and Kyushu regions.

Bean miso

Ingredients are soybeans, and salt. This is made in the Tokai region. This is miso with a thick red color known as “red miso”.

Mixed miso

This is miso that mixes several types of miso, such as rice miso, barley miso, and soybean miso. Miso other than rice, miso, and soybeans may also be classified as mixed miso. Additionally, where soup stock is mixed with soybean miso and rice miso, such as in “Akadashi”, this is also categorized as mixed miso.

Method of storing miso

Miso can be stored at room temperature, but its color deepens, and it loses both flavor and fragrance. This phenomenon occurs even if the pack is not opened, so you should put it in the refrigerator or freezer once you have bought it. Miso will not freeze even if kept in the freezer, so you can use it as is.

Once opened, you should wrap the surface in film so it is not exposed to the air and keep it in the refrigerator or freezer.

Miso is the perfect seasoning!

Do you have it in your mind that “miso is something used in miso soup?” Miso can be used in a variety of foods, regardless of the method of preparation. A few examples are given below.

  • Soup: Miso soup, soup for miso ramen noodles
  • Stir-fry dishes: Stir-fried salmon with miso, stir-fried pork and vegetables with miso
  • Boiling: Boiled mackerel with miso, tripe stew with miso
  • Seasoning: chicken marinated in miso, Saikyo-yaki (Kyoto-style grilled fish with miso)
  • Secret ingredient: Hamburger, beef curry
  • Sauce: Simmered radish, miso dengaku

It is particularly powerful when used as a sauce, and there is a huge variety. It is simple to find a huge number of recipes using miso on the Internet, so try doing a search when you have a chance.

Try various types of miso

Miso, like dashi (soup stock) and soy sauce, is an indispensable part of Japanese food. Miso is not only available on a casual basis from supermarkets and convenience stores, and you can also find a wide variety of regional types of miso in specialist stores and on the Internet.

How about slowly building up small quantities of several varieties of miso, so you can say “for this dish, I will use this miso!”? I am sure you will find combinations that you like.