The first time I tasted miso soup I was 9 years old and having dinner with my family at a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco; I thought I'd a tasted a little bit of heaven and was determined to repeat the experience. Later, when we moved to Hawaii, that's exactly what I did, over and over again! I find it interesting that miso originated in China about 2, 500 years ago, yet is associated with Japan and traditional Japanese cuisine. It's made by fermenting cooked soybeans with rice or barley, sea salt and a starter called koji. Depending on the type of miso being made, it's aged in wooden vats from two months to three years.
There are several varieties of miso but really just two categories: light and dark. Light misos are aged for less time and are typically labeled as "mellow" or "sweet." They're lighter in color, sweeter in flavor and less salty. The dark misos are aged for a longer time; they're rich and hearty, dark in color and saltier in flavor. Miso is available both pasteurized and unpasteurized, and it's the fresh, unpasteurized varieties that add a delicious boost to your probiotics! Its got those good "bugs" that help promote intestinal health, a strong immune system and support your body's own friendly bacteria. The good lactobacillus bacteria grow rapidly in miso once the fermentation process begins. Remember though: once miso is pasteurized, those good bugs are dead bugs! Pasteurization kills microbes, good and bad, so to get the probiotic benefit choose the refrigerated, unpasteurized version. While you may think of miso as belonging in soup, there are plenty of other uses for it. Try replacing salt with miso in some of your favorite recipes. Begin with just a teaspoon or so, depending on the yield of your recipe and whether you have added any salt, then work your way up to just the right amount, Use it in recipes that don't require much cooking; this helps preserve the health benefits. Try miso in the following dishes:
- Vinaigrettes - with red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, darker red or brown misos work well. Try this Miso Salad Dressing.
- Creamy dressings - white or mellow miso is great in creamy dressings. Here's a coleslaw with a miso dressing.
- Cream cheese dips - the lighter the miso, the better .
- Bean dips - pinto and black bean dips taste great with small amounts of any variety of miso.
- Hummus -I f you make your own, try it with a little barley miso.
- Baba Ganouj - I love this made with just a little mellow white miso.
- Sauces - generally the lighter misos work well but if the sauce is heavy with red wine or a stock reduction, go for the darker miso. This Miso Tahini Sauce is perfect for steamed or raw veggies.
- Add miso to casseroles. Here's a recipe for Mushroom and Peas with a Quinoa Miso Dressing.
- Spreads - try mixing a little mellow or white miso with almond or peanut butter. This can be delicious with a banana on whole grain bread.
- Pesto - also great as a substitute for parmesan cheese.
- Mashed with potatoes - like this.
- Mashed into sweet potatoes with a little butter.
- Use as part of a marinade for tofu, tempeh, chicken, or fish. Here's a great Miso Marinated Tofu.
- Make a glaze out of miso for fish or chicken. Here's a great idea for catfish.
If you're a soup lover, miso is perfect! Add just a little or no salt at all to your soup while cooking. Once done, remove from heat and stir a little broth from the soup into the miso to make a paste; add back to soup, stir for 3 or 4 minutes before serving. To activate miso's enzymes and beneficial bacteria, be sure to keep it hot, but don't boil it. Here are a few great soups to get you started:A warming, delicious miso soup. Here's a nice soup with shrimp. Cold this winter? Here's hot Winter Miso Soup. This miso soup has garlic and ginger. Be sure to store your miso in a tightly sealed glass jar or a plastic tub with a tight fitting lid. This way, miso will last for many years. Are you a miso fan? Got a favorite variety and way to use it? I'd love to hear.