Miso [味噌] is a traditional Japanese condiment made from soybeans and other grains with kōji [麹] fungus and salt. It is best known for its use in the Miso Soup [味噌汁]
How it is made
It is produced by fermenting soybeans with kōji [麹] fungus grown on grains (rice, barley or soybeans) and salt. The most common type of miso is “white” where rice kōji is used. The very dark types of miso can be done without any rice, using soy kōji.
Ingredients are placed into some kind of container and fermented under constant pressure. This fermentation is a slow process which usually lasts 1-3 “miso years” (how many summers it was fermenting). The final result is a thick paste, colors can range from bright yellow/beige to dark brown. The taste depends on fermentation and ingredients, usually characteristic for its salty soy/kōji flavour, but depending on the type, it can be also described as sweet, earthy, nutty, fruity, etc.
Miso is a probiotic food, it is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. In Japan, it is a very common condiment in traditional and modern dishes, best known for its use in the Miso Soup [味噌汁]. It can be also used for sauces or spreads in dishes like Misonikomi Udon [味噌うどん] or Miso Katsu [味噌カツ]. In some regions you can find also sweets or pickles made from miso. Gradually it is becoming more and more popular also in overseas.
Some Common Types of Miso
White Miso [白味噌] – most common, uses more rice and less soy, shorter fermentation
Red Miso [赤味噌] – more soy and longer fermentation
Awase Miso [合わせ味噌] – mixed miso
Mugi Miso [麦味噌] – with barley, popular in southern Japan
Tsubu Miso [粒味噌] – chunky, not smooth
Genmai Miso [玄米味噌] – made with brown rice
Hatchō Miso [八丁味噌] – very dark type of miso from steamed soy beans, long fermentation