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  • Writer's pictureFoodiesan

Miso Magic

What food is rich and salty and really, really good for you and lasts forever?

And there's alway miso ramen

I have always loved using miso as a seasoning for marinades, stews and soups, but until I started doing research for this blog, I had no idea that:

  • Even though miso is a high-sodium food, research indicates that it does not impact blood pressure the way that high-sodium foods do. In fact, research on Japanese adults has demonstrated that people with miso diets actually lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke

  • The process of fermentation that produces miso (with the help of fungus called Apergillus oryzae), also contains many valuable antioxidants, and the longer it is fermented, the more plentiful are the antioxidants.

  • There are some studies that have shown a relationship between miso consumption and reduced risk of prostate, breast and colorectal cancer.

I will be providing a recipe for making your own miso at home below, but just in case you don’t have a year or so to wait for the fermentation process to work, I’d recommend trotting over to your Asian grocer to pick some up. At my favorite store, Uwajimaya, there are scores of different types of miso—white, red, yellow, buckwheat, barley, brown rice. There is also awasemiso, which is a mixture of red and white miso.

Some prefer the taste of white miso because it is sweeter and more delicate. I favor red, because I am just that kind of gal.

In a previous blog (April 2012) I provided a very good recipe for miso-grilled salmon. Check it out. My family and guest recommend it enthusiastically. And here are some other good recipes that feature miso as a star ingredient, including a recipe for how to make miso on your own.

Braised Miso Chicken

Sauté about 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs with 3-4 cloves of minced garlic. Once it’s nice and seared, take it out of the pan to make your sauce. Dump about ¾ C red or awase miso together with 6 T sake, ¼ c sugar, and about 1T grated fresh ginger. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly (Need more salt? Add more miso. Need more ginger? Do it.), then put the chicken back into the sauce. If it looks like you need more sauce, add some water. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Just before you are ready to serve, mix in a slurry of about 1T cornstarch into 1/4C water. Stir until nice and thick. Sprinkle green onions and sliced pickled ginger over the top (if you have it). Make sure you have lots of rice on hand. Yummy!

Miso Marinated Fish

Marinate about2 pounds of your choice of fish in 1/3 cup miso (white or red), 1/4 cup mirin and 3 tablespoons sake, and 1T sugar. Refrigerate a minimum of 5 hours, or up to two days. Wipe off the marinade with a paper towel and grill or broil.

Grilled Steak with Red Miso

Marinate a couple of pounds of steaks in a mixture of 1T grated fresh ginger, 2 minced garlic cloves, ¼ C brown sugar, ½ soy sauce, ¼ C red miso, 1/8 C sake, 2 T mirin and 1t togarashi (a Japanese red pepper blend). Miso helps to tenderize meats, so If you have tougher cuts, marinate it overnight; if tender marinate a couple of hours. Grill it over charcoals and baste them with the yummy sauce.

Here is a really easy and yummy salad dressing. No need to spend money for something that doesn’t even taste as good.

Miso Salad Dressing

Whisk together a finely minced shallot with ¼ c plain rice wine vinegar, 1 t honey, 1T miso shiro (white miso) and 1/4C neutral oil (like canola). Add salt and pepper.

Here’s a recipe I got from Bon Appetit a few years ago.

Miso Butter Green Beans

Parboil a pound of green beans, drain and put into ice water. Whisk together 4 t miso with 2T butter. Sauté the beans in a large wok with one minced shallot and two cloves of garlic. Add ¼ C sake and reduce for a minute or two, then add 1/3 C vegetable broth and reduce. Lower the heat and add the miso butter. Sprinkle some sesame seeds.


Making Miso

One of the very humbling aspects of owning the name, is the realization that there are so many people in this world who are far more obsessed (some might even say OCD) with food than I could ever hope to be. Making miso is a very long term project, and I have not made it myself, but I include it here because I think it’s always a good idea to really understand what goes into an amazing product like miso.

  1. Soak about 5.5 C of dried soybeans for 24 hours

  2. Cook for 20 minutes in a pressure cooker or 4 hours in a pot. After it cools, safe 1C of the bean water. Then dry them in a strainer for a couple of hours and mash them in the food processor (purists would do this by hand)

  3. Cook 5 cups of koji rice (this is important because koji rice contains the aspergilus oryzae necessary to ferment miso)

  4. Dissolve 1C natural salt and 3T unpasteurized miso into the reserved cooking water, and mix it in with the cooked koji

  5. Combine with the beans (you will need a big bowl), and roll them into tennis ball-sized balls.

  6. Wet the sides of a large (one gallon) crock and coat with salt. Pack the miso into the crock and press down to get all the air out. After that sprinkle in a generous layer of salt.

  7. Put a flat object on top and put a weight on top. Heavier is better

  8. Cover with cheesecloth and a rubber band.

  9. Store it someplace cool and dark.

  10. Wait a year or two, scrape off the top, and voila!

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