Miso paste is one of those ingredients I often get asked about: namely, what is miso and what is it used for? Well, it’s a fantastic staple to have knocking about in your fridge, as it brings a gorgeous salty, savouriness to dishes. Most miso originates from Japan and is used in a lot of Japanese cuisine. You’ve no doubt heard of miso soup, but I also love adding this ingredient to vegetables, noodles, pasta… and even desserts, like with this Miso Baked Cheesecake.
My silky, glossy and delightful carbonara is made even more epic, with a little help from some miso paste!
Miso paste is a fermented soy bean paste that’s used a lot in Japanese cooking. It’s made by fermenting steamed soy beans with salt, grains (usually rice or barley) and koji, a type of fungus. But don’t let that put you off – it’s a phenomenal way to add flavour to meat, fish and more. And miso soup – simply diluting some paste in hot water – is a soul-reviving hug in a bowl!
There are so many different varieties of miso paste, and it’s all down to their texture, how long they’re fermented for, colour and so on. The most popular imported varieties are white (otherwise known as shiro miso) and red/brown (or ‘aka miso’).
As a general rule of thumb, the darker the colour of the miso paste, the saltier and stronger the flavour, as it’s been aged for longer. I tend to favour white miso in my dishes. Sweet and mild, it’s made with a large proportion of rice and I really love what it adds to a recipe.
Miso has a texture that’s a little like peanut butter. It’s ready to use straight out of the pack and doesn’t require any special preparation, but it’s not really meant to be eaten on its own (although no judging here!). As for that much-loved miso flavour, it’s salty, savoury, a little bit meaty and sometimes can be a little funky too… in a good way! It adds heaps of depth to a variety of dishes, but use it sparingly. You can always add more!
Miso paste has a long shelf life – if you follow the storage instructions. I tend to keep mine in the fridge, and I also like to press a small piece of baking or parchment paper on to the top of the miso paste to give it another layer of protection from oxidation. Also, I recommend only using clean utensils when you scoop a bit of paste out the pot so that you don’t contaminate it.
Miso paste is widely available from supermarkets – you’d typically find it near other Japanese ingredients in most grocery stores. If not, you’ll definitely find it at your nearest Asian grocer, or online.
I’m a big fan of the umami flavour that miso brings to a dish, so I’ve got quite a few miso recipes up my sleeve. Try this selection for starters…