What is Miso Paste?
Miso is a traditional Asian dish that dates back thousands of years. Ancient monks ate it. Samurais ate it. And now pretty much everyone has tried it. Most people out there have only had miso soup while waiting for their sushi though, and aren’t even sure what miso is in the first place. But we’re here to educate. Read on and watch the video to find out not only what miso is, but all that it can do for you.
There are three basic varieties of miso: rice, barley and soybean. Miso is made by fermenting one or more of these ingredients with salt, water, and koji-kin, which preserves the natural vitamins and nutrients, but also enables the miso itself to avoid rotting or spoiling for several months, even years under proper conditions. (Interesting side note: the traditional Japanese alcohol, sake, is made from water, rice, and koji-kin, almost the same ingredients as miso.)
There are basically two types of miso- red and white. The lighter ‘White’ misos are generally sweeter and younger and contain less salt. The darker ‘Red’ misos are thicker and saltier and have been aged longer. So if you’re trying to choose between white and red miso take the taste and possible saltiness into consideration.
How Long does Miso Last?Miso is an extremely stable food product. It should be refrigerated after opening, but it doesn’t have to be kept cold while sealed. And even if you leave your miso in the pantry instead of the fridge, it won’t spoil- refrigeration simply makes it last longer. The secret to miso’s longevity is the fact that it’s fermented. Fermentation is a fancy word for spoiled. Because the ingredients have already been ‘spoiled’, they won’t expire anymore. The only thing that miso will do is dry out. And again, dried out miso isn’t bad for you, it just won’t taste as good as it’s supposed to. So if you want your miso to taste the way it should then keep it in the fridge, but at the same time, the stuff isn’t going to rot any time soon, regardless of where you store it.
Does Miso have to be Kept Cold?Miso was discovered in a time before refrigerators, when making leftovers last wasn’t an option. Salted and fermented foods became popular because they didn’t go bad for a long time. This meant people could have sustainable foods that would last them through cold winters when crops wouldn’t grow, or on long journeys when food was scarce. Foods like miso were revolutionary at the time and really helped to change the face of civilization. Without lasting foods like miso people could never have left home to explore, nor would they have survived famines, or long periods of spoiled crops. So keep your miso cold to extend its shelf life, but leaving it out won't spoil it. And leaving it in high heat will cause the miso to 'melt'. It's color, taste, and texture will change. It'll become darker, saltier, and a bit thicker in texture, and it will be a little more unpleasant tasting than if you had kept it cold, but it's still edible.
Miso’s not just for soup?!?Today miso is most famous for the tasty soup that has Seaweed, Dashi, Tofu, and of course, Miso, in it. But when miso was first discovered it became known as a condiment and a spice, mostly because of its salty taste, and its ability to be spread on various pastries, meats and noodle dishes. It didn’t actually become popular as a soup for quite some time. Today, miso is most famous in a soup because the stuff is fantastic. But it remains a great condiment and spice. People use miso as a base for various glazes, dips, sauces, salad dressings, and marinades. Some people even eat it by itself, but that’s a little too extreme for us. Check out our Recipe Section, and use the search bar to look for miso; you'll find all sorts of miso recipes for free!
What are the Health Benefits of Miso?Short answer: A lot. Miso has a lot of healthy applications, which is why in many Asian countries people will begin their day with a hot bowl of miso soup. Miso is excellent for digestion, and helps your stomach work at peak functionality. Most misos contain all essential amino acids and complex protein. Miso helps purify and strengthen blood. It helps to stave off cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon. It is an excellent source of complex B-vitamins, especially Vitamin B-12. It helps to fight off certain types of radiation poisoning. It strengthens the immune system, helps to lower cholesterol, and has a high dosage of antioxidants. So the next time you’re face deep in a bowl of miso soup, think about all the health benefits you’re getting.
Gift of the Gods?
In Japan the legend behind miso is that it was a divine gift from God. Knowing all the health benefits and the food’s incredible resistance to rot, who are we to argue? It really is an amazing food, and the daily consumption of miso is probably one of the reasons why the Japanese have such a long tradition of good health and extended life expectancy. We recommend you try your hand at a few miso recipes, or simply have some lying around the house next time you’re looking to make some delicious soup. And no pressure to use it right away, it’s not like it’ll spoil any time soon!