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What is miso paste?

What is miso paste?

Miso is the elegant Japanese term for fermented soybean paste. A staple of Japanese cuisine, miso may also be made with rice or barley to which mold and salt are added before aging anywhere from 6 to 36 months. This gruesome-sounding process results in a savory paste that ranges in color from golden to reddish-brown to dark brown to black.

Miso paste is rich in mouth-filling, unbound glutamates, which give some foods that meaty taste known as umami. Commonly used to give depth and flavor to soups, miso may also be used to make sauces, marinades and salad dressings. High in salt, it is also rich in B vitamins and protein. A staple of Asian markets, miso is more and more common in general supermarkets.

The pairing of miso and rice is as essential to the Japanese as meat and potatoes are to the American. A common Japanese breakfast is built around rice and miso soup, with the addition of leftover fish, chicken or other meat from dinner the night before.

Miso soup can be made by simply adding dashi stock or boiling water to the paste and stirring well to dissolve. Garnish the soup with cubes of tofu, sliced button or whole enoki mushrooms, strips of dried seaweed or whatever else you have on hand.

Recipe: Miso Soup With Tofu And Soybeans
Recipe: Miso Vinaigrette
Recipe: Broiled Salmon With Miso

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