Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ingredient: Miso

Sadly, I did not discover miso until I was in my 40s. Don’t wait! Run right out and buy a tub!

Miso is a fermented soybean paste that is a staple in Japanese kitchens, and ought to be one in yours as well. It is delicious, reputedly healthful and nutritious, lasts forever (well, a long time – keep it in the freezer), and can be used in soups, sauces, salad dressings, dips, as a flavoring, a condiment, and probably thousands of ways I’ve never dreamed of! Miso is, however, very salty, so if you are sodium restricted, be careful.

You can find miso in any Asian market, and maybe even in your local supermarket. I like the red (aka) miso best, but you’ll also see white and yellow misos. The white is sweeter and more delicately flavored, the yellow ones are richer but still mild, and the red are the strongest.

Miso Aka, red miso

As we speak, I’m brewing up a cup of miso soup to cure my cold – you know, feed a cold . . . I boiled about 3 cups of water, tossed in about ½ - ¾ tsp. of miso, crumbled up a few pieces of dried seaweed and the cap of a dried shitake mushroom. I turned down the heat and will let it simmer slowly until about 1 cup of water evaporates. By that time (about 30 minutes) the seaweed and mushroom will have reconstituted and become tender, and I can call it soup!

(OK, soup’s on . . .)
Miso Soup

If I’d had some vegetable stock kicking around, I could have used that instead of plain water, or some dashi (a soup stock made with dried bonita flakes), but water works just fine. Toss in other stuff as you see fit – a cube of tofu, a couple of shrimp, other vegetables, hey, make it up as you go along. It will be delicious.

Later when I feed my cold again (well . . .), I may mix up some miso vinaigrette for my salad dressing.

miso ingredients

Fork a little miso into a bowl

mash miso

add a dribble or three of oil (sesame, olive, whatever you have handy) and mash it all up.

add oil

Then stir in a tablespoon of three of vinegar and whisk it all up with your fork.

add vinegar

I like to use a mild rice wine vinegar for this dressing because the miso is such a strong flavor. But I’ve done it with cider vinegar, plain white vinegar, tarragon vinegar, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and various mixtures of all of the above. Play around, have fun with your food!

And experiment with miso . . .

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Tommy -- I could be wrong, but I seem to remember from the counterculture/diet-revolution days that miso is never to be boiled or even simmered. I think it kills the enzymes that are the key to its healthful characteristics. It will dissolve perfectly in recently boiled water, so you can cook your other ingredients and then add the miso just before serving. That's how I was taught, but you can check it out for yourself.

    Also, you didn't mention the very dark, almost-black miso which is a staple of macrobiotic cooking.

    Thanks for a wonderful blog -- loved your half-sour recipe!

    a Yankee gal