When you think of miso, what's the first thing that comes to mind? It's probably the pungent and flavorful Japanese miso soup that pretty much defines the term "umami." But miso can (and should) be used for more than just soup -- it's great in sauces, salad dressings, glazes and more. See the slideshow below for our ideas.
What Miso Paste Is
Basically, it's a paste made from a mixture of soy beans, rice or barley that has been fermented with salt, water and a fungus. But don't get alarmed -- it's not as gross as it sounds. Miso is a cornerstone of Japanese cuisine and it's been so for centuries. The reason? The health benefits. It's packed with protein, vitamin and minerals.
The Three Types
While practically each area in Japan has a form of miso paste that's particular to the region, there are mainly three types of miso paste readily available. Choose the one that's right for you and experiment. Start with the mildest and work your way up to the ones with most umami. Color is a good indicator of flavor and strength, so the darker the miso, the longer it's been aged and the more pungent it is. Once you've got your miso, keep it in the fridge once it has been opened -- it will last you a very long time.
White Miso (shiromiso) has a pale golden color and mild flavor because its fermentation time is so short. White miso is perfect in recipes where you don't want the flavor to be overpowering. It's great for the person who wants to introduce miso into their cooking.
Red Miso (akamiso) is saltier and stronger in flavor than white miso because it's aged for a very long time, often up to one year. It has a terracotta color.
Mixed Miso (awasemiso) is a mixture of two or more miso types, typically white and red. It has a dark brown color and strong taste.
There are also grain-specific miso pastes made from just barley, brown rice, rye, buckwheat and soy beans among others. These can range in flavor and depth of color with some aged for up to three years developing an almost chocolate color.
What do you make with miso? Let us know below.
Whether you're making a pan sauce to serve alongside meat or cooking a stew or ragu, miso works as a flavorful thickener. Simply stir it into the sauce near the end of cooking and it will add lots of flavor (so, no need for salt) and enrich the viscosity of the sauce. Recipes: Mixed Mushroom Ragout Pork Medallions with Miso-Mushroom Sauce
Using miso paste in stir-fry sauces is a natural addition. Combined with vinegar, soy sauce or other Asian condiments, the miso paste will help create a thick and sticky coating for meat and/or vegetables. Recipes: Miso-Ginger Chicken and Cabbage Miso Chicken Stir-Fry
Use miso paste to glaze meat, fish or even vegetables. Once it's mixed with oil, vinegar, soy sauce or other condiments, simply brush the glaze mixture onto the protein or vegetables and you're ready to grill or broil. The glaze works exceptionally well on beef, chicken, fish, eggplant, squash or zucchini. Also try the glaze also on cooked peas or carrots. Recipes: Grilled Beef-Tenderloin Skewers with Red-Miso Glaze Broiled Salmon with Miso Glaze Miso-Glazed Peas and Carrots
A classic way to use miso in Asian recipes is in dipping sauces, which are great for enjoying vegetables or even chicken tenders. But you could also use miso as a breading (like in this recipe) because the miso mixture helps the breadcrumbs adhere. Try the breading on vegetables, chicken or fish. For best results bake. Recipe: Pank-Crusted Asparagus Spears
Since miso is so flavorful and salty, why not use it as a rub? Use it on chicken or turkey (as in this recipe) and rub the paste mixture under the skin -- it will flavor the meat exceptionally well. Recipe: Roasted Garlic and Meyer Lemon-Rubbed Turkey
Add lots of flavor to salads with dressings and vinaigrettes made with miso. Just add a spoonful or two of miso paste to your usual olive oil and vinegar mixture, but for extra tang use rice or cider vinegar. Recipes: Ginger-Miso Tofu Dressing Snow Pea and Carrot Salad with Miso-Tamari Dressing Asian Chicken Salad with Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette
Miso, a Japanese food staple, is used in many traditional Japanese recipes, such as miso soup.