Miso (Paste)

12 Interesting Facts About Miso (Paste)

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Miso paste is a versatile Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans that adds a savory, umami flavor to many Asian dishes. Here are 12 fascinating facts about this flavorful ingredient:

Introduction

Miso originated in China over 2,500 years ago before becoming a staple in Japanese cuisine. This salty, thick paste made from fermented soybeans packs a serious umami punch and serves as the base for miso soup, a beloved comfort food.

But miso is far more than just soup. Its unique fermented flavor also enhances salad dressings, marinades, dips, and more. Read on to learn surprising information about miso’s origins, health properties, and role in Japanese culture.

white and blue ceramic bowl with soup

1. Miso Paste is a High Source of Protein

The soybeans used to make miso paste are packed with protein. Just one tablespoon contains about 2-3 grams of protein. For this reason, miso makes an excellent meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans.

2. It Comes in Different Varieties

TypeMain IngredientsColorTaste
White Misorice, soybeanslight yellow or off-whitemildly sweet, subtle flavor
Red Misorice, soybeansdark red brownrobust flavor, salty taste
Mixed Misorice, barley, soybeansmedium brownbalanced sweet and salty notes

White miso tends to be sweeter and more subtly flavored, while red miso packs a robust, saltier punch. Mixed miso falls somewhere in between.

3. Miso Packs a Probiotic Punch

The fermentation process used to produce miso paste creates beneficial probiotics. Consuming these healthy gut bacteria aids digestion and boosts immunity. Miso’s high antioxidant content also helps prevent cell damage.

4. It’s Aged for Months or Years

Authentic miso paste ages for months or even years in wooden barrels before reaching the ideal intensity of flavor. Some high-quality red miso ages for up to three years!

5. Japanese Monks First Made Miso

Buddhist monks training in China introduced miso to Japan in the 7th century. At the time, only members of the imperial court consumed miso as the monks kept the recipe secret for centuries. Over time, the salty seasoning became more widely produced and consumed across all levels of society.

6. It Makes an Ideal Marinade

Miso’s highly umami flavor makes it the perfect meat or fish marinade. The paste tenderizes meat and infuses it with savory depth. Simply combine miso with mirin, sake, ginger, garlic or other aromatics for a fast flavor boost.

7. There’s a Miso Ice Cream Flavor

Sweet white miso mixed with cream makes a popular ice cream flavor in Japan. This unusual frozen treat surprises the palate by balancing rich sweetness with miso’s distinctive salty savoriness. Those bold enough to try it are rewarded with sublime creaminess.

8. Skip the Soup Packets

Many grocery stores sell instant miso soup packets for convenience. However, the quality can’t compare to authentic freshly-made miso soup which bursts with nuanced umami richness. With bonito fish flakes, tofu, seaweed and green onion garnish, homemade miso soup makes all instant types seem utterly flavorless.

9. It Lasts Practically Forever

When stored properly in the refrigerator, miso paste keeps for years without spoiling. The soybean base, combined with the salt and alcohol from fermentation, make it highly resistant to mold and bacteria. Just keep it submerged under a thin later of neutral oil to prevent oxidation.

10. Japanese Sumo Wrestlers Eat Miso Daily

To maintain their impressive bulk, Sumo wrestlers consume a protein rich stew called chankonabe daily that contains vegetables, meat and plenty of miso. This hearty meal allows the athletes to pack away calories without feeling too full.

11. Japan Has a National Miso Soup Day

Every year on January 30th, Japanese citizens celebrate National Miso Soup day. This nod to the nourishing comfort food reminds locals to enjoy the warming broth during the coldest part of winter.

12. It Could Originate from Chinese Condiment Jiang

Some historians propose that Japanese monks learned to make miso from a Chinese condiment called jiang – a thick paste made by fermenting soybeans and grain. So while miso is now considered a Japanese specialty, its origins potentially trace back to China.

Conclusion

With its long fermentation process, high protein content, and rich umami flavor, miso paste clearly offers some impressive nutritional and taste benefits. This salty soybean condiment not only enhances Asian soups and marinades, but also packs a probiotic punch.

Next time you spot white, red or mixed miso paste at the grocery store, consider picking up a tub. Incorporating miso into more dishes can diversify your cooking while adding a burst of savory flavor.


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