Miso – A Healthy Fermented Food
Many people ask me at the store about Miso. Though I have only been using miso for about 20 years I am certainly not an expert on it. I sometimes use it in stews, soups, pasta sauce (I use a Gado-Gado peanut butter concoction), rice bowls, and sometimes in stir fries.
When the store evolved to include food I of course added miso as one of the products in the limited cooler space. Miso is a fermented food and is recognized as a healthy product for our bodies since it is fermented it introduces flora to our lower intestinal tract.
Miso is based on fermented soybeans but then other grains are added and this develops more complex flavours. This fermentation process is due to the introduction of a culture called koji (Aspergillus oryzae).
There are several misos but they are considered either sweet or dark.
Sweet miso is lighter in colour and milder in flavour. It has been aged for a lesser period of time (the longer a miso is aged the stronger the flavour becomes).
Dark miso is aged more than 2 years. It is higher in protein, stronger in flavour, and has a higher salt content.
A word of caution is needed in reference to miso and it’s salt content. It can be high! The darker misos have higher salt content than the sweeter misos.
All of our miso is manufactured by Amano Foods in Richmond, BC. Amano makes four different types of miso all of which we stock – Shiro, Genmai, Mugi and Aka. Amano only uses certified organic soybeans and therefore is GMO-Free.
- Shiro (white) Miso is the sweetest (lightest) made from blend of Organic White Rice, Organic Whole Soybeans, Sea Salt and Filtered Water. This is a good miso to start with since it is lighter in flavour than other misos offered by Earth’s General Store. Shiro is a light yellow in colour and mellow yet subtly sweet flavour. Shiro contains less salt than the other flavours of Amano Miso and provides for a pleasant miso experience. It is normally used in sauces, dressings and dips. It has about half the salt than darker misos.
- Shiro miso is gluten free.
- Genmai is made from brown rice. This is not a traditional miso since it was difficult to inoculate the brown rice with the koji. Using brown rice as the base and incorporates the bran layer of the brown rice which contains most of the vitamins, minerals, nutrients and oils. Genmai has a nutty but mellow flavour. Made from organic whole soybeans, organic brown rice, water, sea salt and koji (Aspergillus orizae).
- Genmai miso is gluten free.
- Mugi “Barley” miso is dark in color but mellow in flavour. Made from organic whole soybeans, organic pearled barley, water, sea salt and koji (Aspergillus orizae), Mugi was once the most common variety of miso in Japan. This miso is fermented in wood at natural temperatures for at least 18 months, and because it is made with a slightly higher proportion of barley to soybeans, develops a light sweetness with and earthy aroma. Since Mugi does not contain rice it is not as sweet as the other misos.
- Mugi Miso contains gluten since it is made with barley.
- Aka (Red) Miso is aged the longest of the misos (usually more that 2 years), fullest flavour, and highest salt content. Made with white rice, whole soy beans, sea salt, filtered water, culture (aspargillus oryzae).It is a deep reddish brown colour.
- Aka miso is gluten free.
One of the rules of using miso is that since it is fermented you should add your miso to your dish a short time before serving since heat will destroy the beneficial bacteria in the fermented food.
Miso will keep very well in your cupboard if unopened. Once it is opened you should refrigerate it and it should last for about a year. The miso in my fridge is a couple of years old but I still use it (not that this is an endorsement 🙂 ). Since it is a live food it keeps fermenting and gets stronger as it ages so the miso you put into the fridge in September will taste different from the miso you dig out of the tub in February.
The above is what I know about miso and additional information from the internet and the miso on our shelves. If you have information that would make this article better please let me know..
Miso is an easy way to add umami flavour aspect to many foods. Try a little in a vegetarian spaghetti sauce and see whether your taste buds like the results.