Ingredient of the Month 22: Miso

Miso usually comes in jars or pouches
Here's an ingredient that's healthy, tasty and versatile: it can be used in soup, stocks and sauces, pates, dips, spreads, burgers and roasts. Miso is a fermented food which probably originates from Japan. It has also been made in China for well over two thousand years. Soya beans and/ or rice or barley are fermented with salt and aspergillus oryzae aka koji, a microrganism. Miso has a salty, savoury flavour which varies slightly according to the exact ingredients.

You can see little pieces of soya bean/ rice 
There are several different types of miso and nowadays you can even get misos made with other grains such as millet, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, rye and wheat.:
  • mugi : barley
  • tsubu : whole wheat/barley
  • genmai : brown rice
  • moromi : chunky, healthy (kōji is unblended)
  • nanban : mixed with hot chili pepper for dipping sauce
  • taima : hemp seed
  • sobamugi: buckwheat
  • hadakamugi: rye
  • nari: made from cycad pulp
  • gokoku: "5 grain": soy, wheat, barley, proso millet, and foxtail millet
Miso can also be red, white (not really white, but pale) or "mixed". The difference is caused by steaming the soya beans to produce the reddish-brown colour, as opposed to boiling them to produce the "white".

Cooking with miso:
In order to preserve the "live" qualities of miso, it should not be overheated; in fact it's probably better not to heat it at all. When making miso soup, stir the miso in last, after you turn off the heat.

Nutritional Information:
Here's where it really gets interesting! 
  • As miso is relatively high in salt, it may not be a good idea to consume too much if you suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension) as it has been suggested that salt may raise blood pressure. However, latest indications are that this may not be true after all, and there are other great health benefits in miso that make it a brilliant addition to your diet, especially if you are vegan.
  • The koji in miso breaks down the soya beans so that they and their benefits are more easily absorbed by the body.
  • Miso is really high in antixiodants- I mean really. As well as minerals like zinc and manganese, there are also phyto (plant) nutrients in there doing a similar job. Antioxidants help prevent damage to cells from free radicals (which cause ageing and cancer) and also boost immunity. One caveat, however, is that the antioxidant content in miso depends on the fermentation time.
  • As well as minerals, miso contains protein in the form of amino acids like tryptophan, just like soya beans.
  • It is a source of vitamin K and vitamin B12 (although not enough to be the sole source in a vegan diet- you do need to eat enriched foods and/ or supplement. I wouldn't normally advocate supplements over diet, but B12 is really, really important - deficiency symptoms include psychosis that's sometimes irreversible). Other B vitamins in miso are: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid and choline.
  • Miso contains zinc, important for appetite regulation, immunity and skin renewal/ wound healing.

Thanks to Wikipedia for much of the above information, plus the site below:

For some miso recipes from this blog, look here:

Mighty Miso Event for July 2013!
If you have any recipes featuring miso on your blog you'd like to share, just post and use the linky tool below (you will get the links to other peoples' recipes once you click on it). Archived posts are welcome- no need to re-post, just add the link to this page before you add your post to our list.


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