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Miso

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A jar of commercial barley miso Miso for sale in a Tokyo food hall.

Miso (みそ or 味噌?) is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting rice, barley and/or soybeans, with salt and the fungus kōjikin (麹菌?), the most typical miso being made with soy. The result is a thick paste used for sauces and spreads, pickling vegetables or meats, and mixing with dashi soup stock to serve as miso soup called Misoshiru (味噌汁?), a Japanese culinary staple. High in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, miso played an important nutritional role in feudal Japan. Miso is still very widely used in Japan, both in traditional and modern cooking, and has been gaining world-wide interest. Miso is typically salty, but its flavor and aroma depend on various factors in the ingredients and fermentation process. Different varieties of miso have been described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity, and savory, and there is an extremely wide variety of miso available.

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History

The predecessor of miso originated in China during the 3rd century BC or earlier, and it is probable that this, together with related fermented soy-based foods, was introduced to Japan at the same time as Buddhism in the 6th century AD[1].This fermented food is called ``Shi``.

Until the Muromachi era, miso was made without grinding the soybeans, somewhat like natto. In the Kamakura era, a common meal was made up of a bowl of rice, some dried fish, a serving of miso, and a fresh vegetable. In the Muromachi era, Buddhist monks discovered that soybeans could be ground into a paste, spawning new cooking methods where miso was used to flavor other foods.

The Sengoku era, miso was useful as a military provision and precious nourishing food for soldiers. Making a miso was an important economic policy of Sengoku-daimyos in each place.

During the Edo period miso was also called hishio and kuki.

In the modern era, the industrial method of producing miso in large quantities was established and it became rare to make miso at home.

Variety

By flavor

The taste, aroma, texture, and appearance of any specific miso vary by miso type as well as the region and season for which the miso was made. The ingredients used, temperature and duration of fermentation, salt content, variety of kōji, and fermenting vessel all contribute. The most common flavor categories of miso are:

Shiromiso, ``white miso`` Akamiso, ``red miso`` Awasemiso, ``mixed miso`` Hatchomiso[2]

White and red (shiromiso and akamiso) are the basic types of miso available in all of Japan as well as overseas. Different varieties are preferred in particular regions. For example, in the eastern Kantō region that includes Tokyo, the lighter shiromiso is popular, while in the western Kansai region encompassing Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, darker brownish hatchomiso is preferred, and akamiso is favored in the Tokai area.[citation needed]

By ingredient

The raw materials used to produce miso may include any mix of soybeans, barley, rice, buckwheat, millet, rye, wheat, hemp seed, and cycad, among others. Lately, producers in other countries have also begun selling miso made from chick peas, corn, azuki beans, amaranth, and quinoa. Fermentation time ranges from as little as five days to several years. The wide variety of Japanese miso is difficult to classify, but is commonly done by grain type, color, taste, and background.

mugi (麦): barley tsubu (粒): whole wheat/barley genmai (玄米): brown rice moromi (醪): chunky, healthy (kōji is unblended) nanban (南蛮): mixed with hot chili pepper for dipping sauce taima (大麻): hemp seed sobamugi (蕎麦): buckwheat hadakamugi (裸麦): rye nari (蘇鉄): made from cycad pulp, Buddhist temple diet gokoku (五穀): ``5 grain``: soy, wheat, barley, proso millet, and foxtail millet

Many regions have their own specific variation on the miso standard. For example, the soybeans used in Sendai miso are much more coarsely mashed than in normal soy miso.

Miso made with rice (including shinshu and shiro miso) is called kome miso.

Using miso

Storage and preparation

Miso typically comes as a paste in a sealed container, and should be refrigerated after opening. Natural miso is a living food containing many beneficial microorganisms which are easily killed by prolonged cooking. Whenever possible add the miso to soups or other preparations just before they are removed from the heat or use the miso in ways that require no cooking.[3] Some people, especially those outside of Japan, go so far as to only add miso to preparations after they have cooled, to preserve the biological activity of the kōjikin. Since miso and soy foods play a large role in the Japanese diet, there are a variety of cooked miso dishes as well.

In food

Main article: Miso soup

Miso is a part of many Japanese-style meals. It most commonly appears as the main ingredient of miso soup, which is eaten daily by much of the Japanese population. The pairing of plain rice and miso soup is considered a fundamental unit of Japanese cuisine. This pairing is the basis of a traditional Japanese breakfast.

Miso is used in many other types of soup and souplike dishes, including some kinds of ramen, udon, nabe, and imoni. Generally, such dishes have the title miso prepended to their name (for example, miso-udon), and have a heavier, earthier flavor and aroma compared to other Japanese soups that are not miso-based.

Many traditional confections use a sweet, thick miso glaze, such as mochidango. Miso glazed treats are strongly associated with Japanese festivals, although they are available year-round at supermarkets. The consistency of miso glaze ranges from thick and taffy-like to thin and drippy.

Soy miso is used to make a type of pickle called ``misozuke``.[4] These pickles are typically made from cucumber, daikon, hakusai, or eggplant, and are sweeter and less salty than the standard Japanese salt pickle. Barley miso, or nukamiso (糠味噌?), is used to make another type of pickle.[5] Nukamiso is a fermented product, and considered a type of miso in Japanese culture and linguistics, but does not contain soy, and so is functionally quite different. Like soy miso, nukamiso is fermented using kōji mold.

Other foods with miso as an ingredient include:

dengaku (charcoal-grilled miso covered tofu) yakimochi (charcoal-grilled miso covered mochi) miso braised vegetables or mushrooms marinades: fish or chicken can be marinated in miso and sake overnight to be grilled. corn on the cob in Japan is usually coated with shiro miso, wrapped in foil and grilled. sauces: sauces like misoyaki (a variant on teriyaki) are common.

Nutrition and health

The nutritional benefits of miso have been widely touted by commercial enterprises and home cooks alike.

Claims that miso is high in vitamin B12 have been contradicted in some studies.[6] Part of the confusion may stem from the fact that some soy products are high in B vitamins (though not necessarily B12) and some, such as soy milk, may be fortified with vitamin B12.

Some, especially proponents of healthy eating, suggest that miso can help treat radiation sickness, citing cases in Japan and Russia where people have been fed miso after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Notably, Japanese doctor Shinichiro Akizuki, director of Saint Francis Hospital in Nagasaki during World War II, theorized that miso helps protect against radiation sickness.[7]

Some experts suggest that miso is a source of Lactobacillus acidophilus[8] Lecithin, a kind of phospholipid caused by fermentation, is effective in the prevention of high blood pressure. However, miso is also relatively high in salt which can contribute to increased blood pressure.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Miso Doenjang Dajiang Fermented bean paste Yellow soybean paste Marukome

References

^ Albala, Ken. Beans: A History. Berg, 2007, ISBN 1845204301 p.216 ^ Hatcho Miso - Traditional Miso manufacture in Okazaki ^ Shurtleff, William; Aoyagi, Akiko (2001). The book of miso: savory, high-protein seasoning. Soyinfo Center. p. 48. ISBN 1580083366. http://books.google.com/books?id=N3EJorOxXtsC&pg=PA48&dq=heat+microorganisms#v=onepage&q=heat%20microorganisms&f=false.  ^ W4E: Misozuke Recipe (Japanese miso pickle) | Japan ^ Joi Ito's Web: Nukamiso Guide Version 1.4 ^ Vitamin B12 information sheet ^ [1] ^ [2] Farnworth, Edward R. (2003). Handbook of Fermented Functional Foods. CRC Press. ISBN 0-8493-1372-4. http://books.google.com/books?id=0pHBOjhq_P4C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=&f=false.  Shurtleff, William; Aoyagi, Akiko (2001). The book of miso: savory, high-protein seasoning. Ten Speed Press. ISBN 1-58008-336-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=N3EJorOxXtsC&pg=frontpage#v=onepage&q=&f=false.  Katz, Sandor Ellix (2003). Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. Chelsea Green Publishing Company. ISBN 1-931498-23-7. http://books.google.com/books?id=qCMmXAp237cC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=&f=false. 

External links

Miso Online Japan Miso Promotion Board v â€¢ d â€¢ e Soy General

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Sauces and condiments

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