What Is Miso?
Miso is a rich paste created by fermenting soybeans, wholesome grains, salt and water. The process can take as little as a few weeks or as long as three years depending on the flavour and texture required. Although most of us know of miso because of the soup, it’s much more versatile than that. It can be used as a spread, a sauce, a seasoning and even a preservative.
A Brief History
Originating from China, best guesses date the introduction of miso to Japan 1,300 years ago. It was originally a prized delicacy, only enjoyed by nobility but as word of its energy-giving properties spread, Samurai adopted it as their staple, take-anywhere diet. We believe that its protein-packed recipe make it one of the very first ‘ancient superfoods’.
Below is the traditional way of making miso in a 2 tonne handmade cedar barrel; the miso is left to ferment and cure under 1 tonne of expertly placed rocks, that have been structurally designed to survive even earthquakes.
By the mid 14th century miso’s popularity had spread and it was now enjoyed by everyone, from monks to farm hands. During the 17th & 18th centuries miso went full circle, becoming a thrifty way to eek out household budgets during periods of great financial hardship. Today, miso is exported from Japan to all corners of the world however awareness of miso outside the Far East is still in it’s infancy.
Here is a modern miso store in Tokyo, selling hundreds of types of miso from the different regions of Japan.
Miso varieties are categorised using three simple parameters: ingredients, taste & colour.
Miso can be fermented using rice and soybeans; barley and soybeans or soybeans only. Each variety varies in taste, colour and texture.
Miso can be classified by its sweetness and our Classic Shiro soup is a great example of a sweeter tasting recipe. Just like beer and wine production, the length of the fermentation process affects the taste of the finished product.
The finished colour of miso paste can be white, beige, brown, deep reds and black. Its colour is determined by the type of soybeans used, whether they are boiled or steamed and how long their period of fermentation is.
Miso Tasty Classic Shiro miso soup is a blend of white miso, our Spicy Aka is a blend of red miso and our soon-to be released Premium Hatcho miso will be almost black in colour as it’s fermented for 3 years and made from pure soybeans.
Miso is rich in proteins, vitamins, fibre and amino acid due to the soybean fermentation process. Studies have also discovered that miso contains enzymes and bacteria that aid digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Other studies indicate fatigue relief, cholesterol reduction, improved digestion, anti-aging and a reduced cancer risk.
The June 2003 issue of Journal of the National Cancer Institute includes a study showing miso’s preventive effects against breast cancer. Involving over 20,000 Japanese women, the study highlighted that those who consumed miso regularly had a 40% reduced risk of developing the disease.