Meet the Neighbors: Miso

Meet miso, a ubiquitous Japanese condiment that is a must-have for plant-based foodies.  I met miso and seaweed (and a lot of other traditional Japanese ingredients) when my husband, Roger, did a stint as a cook in the macrobiotic house in Tucson, Arizona, during our grad school days.  Here in Grand Rapids area, you can find these ingredients at Asian Delight, Harvest Health, and Saigon Market, to name a few spots.

Miso is a paste made from fermenting soybeans, salt and koji or various cultured grains like rice, barley or even chickpeas or more soybeans.  The taste changes depending on the ingredients used and the length of fermentation.  Generally, here in the U.S. you find white and red miso, the white, which is actually amber in color, is said to be sweeter and lighter; the red, more savory.  Miso takes up a fair amount of real estate in my refrigerator because I have to try all the different kinds.  It’s pricey, but it keeps for months.  Some of my go-to Japanese websites assure me that even if my miso is covered with a little white mold, I can just stir it back in.

Mellow White Miso is a Good Place to Begin

Miso really does add a rich taste to many dishes.  It’s most common use is in miso soup, the equivalent in Japanese culture to our chicken noodle soup.  Traditionally miso soup is made with miso, dried seaweed, fish flakes, chopped vegetables, tofu, and perhaps noodles.  Each household has its own special recipe.  Miso is an excellent vegetable source of vitamin B12, is a complete protein and contains a lot of wonderful digestive properties that I’d much rather refer you to a doctor to learn about.  I think this is why miso soup is compared to chicken noodle soup.  A steaming hot bowl is good for what ails you.  But don’t add miso to a boiling broth.  That might destroy some its protective isoflavones.

So the other day, when it looked like this out my window,

and I was feeling under the weather, Roger made me a bowl of miso soup.  It was quite simple.  He put 6 cups of water and three cups of chopped vegetables in water and brought it to a low boil. Then he threw in a strip of wakame and crumbled some toasted nori over the surface of the water.  After the vegetables were soft (about 6 minutes) he removed a cup of the broth and stirred in the miso.  It’s hard to say how much miso because tastes for it vary.  It’s a salty condiment, so start off with a little—say, two teaspoons per cup—and add more as you need to.  Taste test the one cup until you have the right proportion and then multiply.  After that, you’ll always know how much to add.  Use a whisk if you need to, but the goal is to make sure the miso is fully incorporated into the water.  Take the soup off the heat before you add your miso cup back in.

In Japan, miso is a quick and healthy breakfast.  If you add cubed tofu and soba noodles, it makes a hearty meal for anytime of the day.

No Responses to “Meet the Neighbors: Miso”

  1. Beth LeesonJanuary 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Oh my…sounds delicious and the picture sealed the deal. I’m making it!

  2. Cary OkoroJanuary 14, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    I remember eating miso soup with you & Rog in Tucson all those years ago! Yummy flavors, so healing, it’s still in my repertoire. Love to you both!!

  3. SangoJanuary 16, 2012 at 4:25 am #

    So glad and excited to hear you love Miso. I studied abroad in GIlbert, AZ about 30 yrs ago. Nobody understood/knew/interesteted in Japan/Japanese at that time. I am so glad to know someone who in AZ know Japan now.

  4. Dr. TJanuary 16, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    Thank you for your introducing “Miso” to English-using area by this article.
    But please be careful in eating “Miso” too much. “Miso” includes much salt, i.e. Sodium chloride. If you have much “Miso”, you may have excess salt. It may cause you hypertension.

    I am very happy to hear that you enjoy Miso.

    Sorry for my poor English…(ToT)
    Sincerely yours

  5. BluedevilsJanuary 16, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    If you like Miso flavor, try Miso Egg.
    Wrap boiled eggs with Miso (you can add a little Sake or water to make Miso easy to handle) and leave them over a night in a fridge.
    Red Miso is my favorite, but try different ones!

  6. CocoJanuary 16, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    Have you tried Eggplant and Bell Pepper Miso Stir Fry?
    Slice eggplant and bell pepper into thin strips.
    Stir fry eggplant in olive oil in a pan.(I use quite a lot of olive oil because eggplant absorbs a lot of oil.)
    Add bell pepper when the eggplant is cooked halfway through.
    Add sugar and cook until eggplant is very soft.
    Mix miso and soy sauce in a small bowl.
    Add the mixture into the pan and mix it with the vegetables.
    I love it on hot rice!
    I found a similar recipe on

  7. hokkaiJanuary 24, 2012 at 3:13 am #

    It is interesting that American you take to MISO of Japan.
    Although I am a Japanese, when it was a child, I did not so like miso soup.
    I thought that corn soup and consomme were also delicious in my opinion.
    But miso soup may be good if it eats every day.
    Now, I like it.
    MISO has various usage.
    For example, please soak pork in the liquid which melted bean paste with water for one day.
    And please burn after that and eat.
    Similarly, please try beef, a cuttlefish, etc. in a similar manner.
    It becomes the food of a deep taste.

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