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Miso good

This whole blogging thing is interesting because it’s pushing me to spend time finding out about ingredients that I have been taking for granted. This time it’s miso. I have a really quick miso soup that I whip up when I don’t feel like making anything for dinner and the market on the way home from work has all the ingredients. I swoop in, purchase miso paste, instant noodles, tofu and green onions and hightail it home to create a hot pot in 15 minutes.

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Back to the miso. I know it’s fermented soybean paste. But I didn’t know that there were so many varieties and that it also could be made from fermented grains like barley and rice. And, although the store sells two varieties, I never bothered to compare the two. Until now!  The two types sold there are pretty common (from what I’ve read): white miso (shiro miso) and red miso (aka miso). The packaging of the red variety actually says “tezukuri miso,” which, if the Internet can be believed, colloquially means “authentic” or “homemade.” A bit of marketing there, though lost on the non-Japanese speaker!

According to a cookbook I have, miso provides protein as well as other nutrients, like B vitamins. It’s traditionally fermented four to five days and then aged for two or more years – except for the white or shiro miso, which is used right away after fermenting.

My informal taste test revealed that to me, the shiro miso has a tangy, sharper taste than the aka miso, which has a smoother, rounder flavor. Which makes a lot of sense now that I know about the aging process. I like the aka miso best for this soup. I’ll have to experiment more with this ingredient for marinades and salad dressings. I also read that some cooks smear miso paste directly onto fish, which is then baked or broiled. Seems to me that it would either be too salty (if you used too much) or not have a lot of flavor (if you used just a little bit). This is something I’ll have to explore for a future post!

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Quick Miso Soup
- serves 2 -

32 oz. chicken broth (I would like to try using dashi, broth made with seaweed)
8 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 green onions, sliced
7 oz. instant noodles (I get instant Chinese wheat noodles* that are yellow – yay, Yellow #5! – and say “pancit canton” on the package. These are soft and sold in the refrigerated section. If you buy fresh, be sure to cook them first, otherwise they will soak up all the broth and turn your soup into mush.)
2 Tbsp aka miso
2 tsp soy sauce

In a pot, whisk aka miso into chicken broth and soy sauce and heat gently (I knew you weren’t supposed to boil it for some reason, and found out that boiling can kill the active cultures in the miso – like in yogurt – which are good for you).  Add green onions, noodles and tofu and heat through until noodles are tender. Ladle into bowls, top with cooked potstickers.**

* Another interesting find as I searched the Interweb for information (and then called my Filipino friend) – “pancit canton” seems to be a typical Filipino dish made with “Chinese” noodles and other Chinese-influenced ingredients.

** I buy frozen potstickers so that I have them on hand – Trader Joe’s has some decent ones. To cook, add a few tablespoons of water and a tablespoon or so of canola oil to a non-stick pan. Bing to a simmer, add frozen potstickers and cover with a lid. The water will evaporate, steaming the potstickers, leaving oil to fry them in. I have found that it’s best not to flip them often, as they stick (hence the name!). Just leave them to fry on one side until crispy – then flip.


    1. Margot says:

      I highly recommend combining miso and sriracha to use as a smear on grilled meats.

    2. dan says:

      Funny, I just came across this miso primer the other day. I’ve been meaning to send it to all of you.

    3. jmarshall says:

      Margot, that sounds good! I will have to try and report back.

    4. FKK says:

      JRB, I’ll have to make miso-yaki black cod/butterfish/sea bass for you and Charlie. Very simple, but very good. Just like you’d get in Hawaii or at Roy’s.

    5. Tehemina says:

      The only thing I’ve ever made with miso is something a friend made for me ages ago– the sablefish (black cod) from the Nobu recipe, where you marinate the fish in the miso and then broil it. Having it alongside a little of that sticky short grain Japanese rice and some spinach sauteed with peanut butter is a little taste of heaven, because the sablefish has an extraordinary texture and the marinade caramelizes all over the fish.
      Love the blog!! I’ll have to RSS you. :)

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