In case you haven’t noticed, Miso is having a renaissance. For a product that’s as old as the Neolithic Era (14,000-300 BE), this is no easy feat.
Miso’s origin ingredients are difficult to pinpoint by taste — it’s tangy, tart and rich in its own way. But we’ll let you off easy and tell you flat out: miso is essentially fermented soybean paste that’s been mixed with either rye, barley or rice and left to sit for a few months (or years). We know it doesn’t sound terribly appetizing when described this way, but the process is truly astounding and ancient (it was revolutionized by ancient Chinese cultures where it later spread to Japan).
Its fermented quality makes it what some people (read: macrobiotics) proclaim to be a superfood in its own right, assisting with the body’s natural detox processes. However accurate these claims are doesn’t detract from the fact that the paste gives soups, glazes and other dishes an intense and unmistakable flavor that can only be described as umami. And it’s that profile that more and more chefs, eateries and casual cooks are searching for. While sales of the fermented paste and even Google searches have spiked, the question still remains: how do we use miso? And what kind should we buy?
For truly delicious products, you have to go straight to the source, which is exactly what Hikari Miso did. Based in the central Japanese Alps, this long standing company produces both organic and conventionally grown miso products in a host of different varieties (red, white, mild sodium, saikyosweet, dashi, brown and green) that are all certified by the USDA, are gluten free and are made from non-GMO soybeans.
If your idea of grocery shopping is via Amazon (hey, we don’t blame you), then this miso company will speak to you. Miyasaka Brewery Co. has produced their Shiro paste to rave reviews from professional and amateur cooks alike. Best for those looking to buy in semi-bulk, the product is both non-GMO and MSG-free and the company is based in Japan. The paste stores well in the fridge and presents a round but salty finish, just as it’s supposed to.
Those who favor delicate flavor and a tinge of sweetness will likely gravitate toward Golden Shiro Miso, like this popular variety from Eden Foods. Extremely light and palatable, this miso can be used as a spread, a dip and a dressing, in addition to a soup base or stir-fry flavoring. Certified organic and gluten free, this is the most accessible starter miso for those looking to dive into the complex flavor world of umami.
Have a favorite miso? Let us know.