|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||831 kJ (199 kcal)|
|Aspartic acid||1.171 g|
|Glutamic acid||1.915 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Miso (みそ or 味噌?) is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and the fungus Aspergillus oryzae, known in Japanese as kōji (麹?), and sometimes rice, barley, or other ingredients. 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 widely used in Japan, both in traditional and modern cooking, and has been gaining worldwide 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. The traditional Chinese analogue of miso is known as dòujiàng (豆酱).
The origin of the miso of Japan is not completely clear.
- Grain and fish misos had been manufactured in Japan since the Neolithic era (Jōmon period (14,000–300 BC)). These are called "jōmon miso" and are similar to the early fish and soy-based sauces produced throughout East Asia.
- This miso predecessor originated in China during the third century BC or earlier. Hishio and other fermented soy-based foods likely were introduced to Japan at the same time as Buddhism in the sixth century AD. This fermented food was called "shi".
In the Kamakura era (1192–1333), a common meal was made up of a bowl of rice, some dried fish, a serving of miso, and a fresh vegetable. Until the Muromachi era (1337 to 1573), miso was made without grinding the soybeans, somewhat like nattō. In the Muromachi era, Buddhist monks discovered that soybeans could be ground into a paste, spawning new cooking methods using miso to flavor other foods. In medieval times, the word temaemiso, meaning home-made miso, appeared. Miso production is a relatively simple process, so home-made versions spread throughout Japan. Miso was used as military provisions during the Sengoku era and making miso was an important economic activity for daimyos of that era.
During the Edo period (1603–1868), miso was also called hishio and kuki and various types of miso that fit with each local climate and culture emerged throughout Japan.
These days, miso is produced industrially in large quantities and traditional home-made miso has become a rarity. In recent years, many new types of miso have appeared. For example, ones with added soup stocks or calcium, or reduced salt for health, etc. are available
The taste, aroma, texture, and appearance of miso all vary by region and season. Other important variables that contribute to the flavor of a particular miso include temperature, duration of fermentation, salt content, variety of kōji, and fermenting vessel. The most common flavor categories of miso are:
- Shiromiso, "white miso"
- Akamiso, "red miso"
- Awasemiso, "mixed miso"
Although white and red (shiromiso and akamiso) are the most common types of misos available, different varieties may be preferred in particular regions of Japan. In the eastern Kantō region that includes Tokyo, the darker brownish akamiso is popular while in the western Kansai region encompassing Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe the lighter shiromiso is preferred.
The ingredients 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 chickpeas, 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): "five-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 such as shinshu and shiro are called kome miso.
Types of miso are divided by their main ingredients.
- Kome miso or "rice miso" can be yellow, yellowish white, red, etc. Whitish miso is made from boiled soybeans, and reddish miso is made from steamed soybeans. Kome miso is consumed more in eastern Japan and the Hokuriku and Kinki areas.
- Mugi miso or "barley miso" is a whitish miso which is produced in Kyushu, western Chugoku, and Shikoku areas. Another reddish mugi miso is produced in the northern Kanto area. Mugi miso has a peculiar smell.
- Mame miso or "soybean miso" is a darker, more reddish brown than kome miso. This is not as sweet as some other varieties, but has some astringency and good umami(旨味). This miso requires a long maturing term. Mame miso is consumed mostly in Aichi prefecture, part of Gifu prefecture, and part of Mie prefecture. Soybean (grain-free) miso is also labeled hatcho miso. However, The Hatcho Miso Company in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, who describe themselves as the only makers of authentic Hatcho miso since the 14th century, uses barley flour in its production.
- Chougou miso or "mixed miso" comes in many types, because it is a mixture or compound of other varieties of miso. This may improve the weak points of each type of miso. For example, mame miso is very salty, but when combined with kome miso the finished product has a mild taste.
- Akamiso or red miso is aged, sometimes for more than one year. Therefore, due to the Maillard reaction, the color changes gradually from white to red or black, thus giving it the name red miso. Characteristics of the flavor are saltiness and some astringency with umami. It is often a much stronger-tasting miso. Factors in the depth of color are the formula of the soybeans and the quantity used. Generally, steamed soybeans are more deeply colored than boiled soybeans.
- Shiromiso or white miso is the most widely produced miso, made in many regions of the country. Its main ingredients are rice, barley, and a small quantity of soybeans. If a greater quantity of soybeans were added, the miso would be red or brown. Compared with red miso, white miso has a very short fermentation time. The taste is sweet, and the umami is soft or light (compared to red miso).
Storage and preparation
Miso typically comes as a paste in a sealed container requiring refrigeration after opening. Natural miso is a living food containing many beneficial microorganisms such as Tetragenococcus halophilus which can be killed by overcooking. For this reason, the miso should be added to soups or other foods being prepared just before they are removed from the heat. Using miso without any cooking may be even better. Outside of Japan, a popular practice is to only add miso to foods that have cooled to preserve kōjikin cultures in miso. Nonetheless, miso and soy foods play a large role in the Japanese diet, and many cooked miso dishes are popular.
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 soup-like dishes, including some kinds of ramen, udon, nabe, and imoni. Generally, such dishes have the title miso prefixed 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. These pickles are typically made from cucumber, daikon, hakusai (Chinese cabbage), or eggplant, and are sweeter and less salty than the standard Japanese salt pickle.
Other foods with miso as an ingredient include:
- dengaku (sweetened miso used for grilling)
- yakimochi (charcoal-grilled mochi covered in miso)
- 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 often coated with shiro miso, wrapped in foil and grilled.
- sauces: sauces like misoyaki (a variant on teriyaki)
- dips: used as a dip to eat with vegetables (e.g. cucumbers, daikon, carrots, etc.)
- side dish: miso is often eaten not only as a condiment, but also as a side dish. Mixed or cooked miso with spices and/or vegetables is called okazu-miso (おかず味噌), often eaten along with hot rice or spread over onigiri.
Nutrition and health
Some experts suggest that miso is a source of Lactobacillus acidophilus. Miso is relatively high in salt which can contribute to increased blood pressure in the small percentage of the population with sodium-sensitive prehypertension or hypertension.
- "お味噌の歴史 (The History of Miso)" (in Japanese). Yamajirushi Jyozo. Retrieved 2013-11-20.
- Shurtleff, William; Aoyagi, Akiko (2009). History of Miso, Soybean Jiang (China), Jang (Korea) and Tauco (Indonesia) (200 BC-2009). Soyinfo Center. p. 627. ISBN 978-1-928914-22-8.
- Albala, Ken (2007). Beans: a history. Berg Publishers. p. 216. ISBN 1-84520-430-1.
- "Recipes for Hatcho Miso". NaturalImport.com. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
- "Making Hatcho Miso". Mitoku.com. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
- Shurtleff, William; Aoyagi, Akiko (2001). The book of miso: savory, high-protein seasoning. Soyinfo Center. p. 48. ISBN 1-58008-336-6.
- "Misozuke Recipe (Japanese miso pickle)". Whats4eats.com. Brad Harvey. Retrieved 2013-11-20.
- "Vitamin B12". The Vegetarian Society. The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom Limited. Archived from the original on February 22, 2008. Retrieved December 28, 2010.
- Ehrlich, Steven D. (2011-05-24). "Lactobacillus acidophilus". University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). Retrieved 2013-11-20.
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- Miso Online Japan Miso Promotion Board