Miso Makes Its Mark: Could It Be the New Sriracha?


Is it just me, or have you noticed that miso is everywhere these days?  Maybe it’s the fermentation craze. Perhaps it’s the growing popularity of Asian cuisine.  Or maybe it’s just the continual desire for new flavors.  Whatever the case, this ancient ingredient has become a hot new food trend.  That was the topic of my last Trend Spotlight post for Healthy Aperture.

Do you know miso?  Basically, miso is fermented soybean paste that’s been mixed with a cultured grain — most commonly barley, rice or rye.  Although for people who need to avoid gluten or don’t want the soybeans, The Kitchn has a great post on gluten-free and soy-free miso pastes.

Known as koji, the cultured grain is made by adding a type of fungus or mold. Then the mixture is allowed to ferment for a couple of months or up to three years. Miso looks a bit like peanut butter in texture and the color varies from white to dark brown, based on length of fermentation and combination of other ingredients. The more soybeans that are used in the miso and the longer the fermentation time the darker and stronger the flavor.  The white and pale yellow miso varieties are lower in soybeans and have a shorter fermentation time, so the taste is milder and sweeter. The darker versions that are reddish brown in color have been fermented longer and are more pungent and robust.

The lighter miso is best for more delicate recipes, such as sauces, salad dressings or soups, while the darker varieties are used in heavier dishes. For more on the various types of miso paste, check out Bon Appetit. 

Miso originated in China in ancient times, and then spread to Japan.  You may know miso from the classic miso soup on Japanese menus.  This ancient ingredient was fueled by the macrobiotic movement in the U.S., and today many people claim that miso has abilities to detox and cleanse.  Others like it because it’s a “living food,” similar to yogurt and other fermented foods.  I like it because of the taste. I don’t expect it to work miracles.

Miso has a rich, complex flavor that adds a hit of umami to everything it touches — vegetables, salads, soups, sauces, meats and seafood.  I was amazed at all the creative ways  Healthy Aperture bloggers are using miso, including Miso Kimchi Deviled EggsCole Slaw with Miso DressingKale-Miso Saute with Dates and Millet,  Linguine with Miso Butter and  Miso Cumin White Bean Hummus.  Hummus with miso, I love it!

Hope you’ll go over to Healthy Aperture to check out my Trend Spotlight on miso and find some of the miso-infused recipes.


Image:  miso paste courtesy of only1peterkenny on flickr



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