Miso paste

Miso paste remains a mystery for many people. Cooking with fermented soy beans can look a bit strange at first sight. It really shouldn’t be, so go ahead and experiment!

anchovies-and-eclairs.image04Miso is a Japanese condiment made from fermented soybean paste. To prepare it, “koji” is first made: a cereal (barley or rice most often) is cooked and seeded with a microscopic fungus (Aspergillus oryzae). Koji is then salted and mixed with cooked and crushed soybeans, which will be fermented for several days or weeks to several years, depending on the kind of miso to be produced. In general, the more fermented a miso, the stronger its texture, the darker its color and the more pronounced its flavour.

Hatcho miso (pure soybean miso – no grains are added) is a dark, dense and full-bodied pure soy bean miso. It is the result of a long fermentation and is chocolate-colored, almost ebony black, less salty, firmer and dryer than the others, with a very typical and concentrated flavour.

Shiro miso (white miso), actually light yellow in color, is made with fermented soy beans and rice. Fermentation is short, which which gives it a mild and sweet flavour. This is the most versatile miso and probably the best choice if you buy only one miso.

Shinshu miso (yellow miso) is made with fermented soy beans and barley. It is slightly stronger than white miso and works well in dressings, soups, marinades and glazes.

Aka miso (red miso) is the saltiest and most pungent variety of miso. It is made with fermented soybeans and barley or another grain, ranges from dark brown to red in color and can be used in marinades and glazes for heartier dishes, like meats and certain vegetables, such as eggplant.

 

What is dashi?

Dashi is a must-have ingredient and is the basis for miso soup, udon and ramen broth and many other recipes. To make dashi stock, you must first prepare kelp stock, by soaking kombu in water overnight.

You then add what people often call “bonito” fish flakes, although the fish that is actually used to make dried fish flakes is skipjack tuna.

  • 1 liter kelp stock
  • 30 grams katsuobushi (dried skipjack tuna flakes)

  1. Place the prepared kelp stock in a large pot over medium heat and heat up to 80° C. It is important not to bring the stock to a boil. Add the fish flakes, gently pushing the flakes down into the stock. When the stock comes back to a gentle simmer, turn off the heat and leave the fish flakes in the stock for about 5 minutes.
  2. Strain the stock and reserve the fish flakes. Your dashi should be very clean and clear. It should be used within three days.
  3. After making your first dashi stock, you can reuse the leftover fish flakes and make a second batch. Again, combine kelp stock and the leftover katsuoboshi. Bring to 80° C, add another 15 grams of fresh fish flakes. When the stock comes back to a gentle simmer, turn off the heat, let sit for 5 minutes and strain.