Saturday, February 5, 2011

Getting To Know MISO

This one's for all you miso soup lovers.  

What is miso?
Miso is made from a bean (usually soy but not necessarily), sometimes a grain, salt, and a special bacteria called koji.  Because it's fermented and unpasteurized, miso is full of live enzymes that are great for digestion.  High in protein, vitamins (like E), minerals, and alkalizing to the blood, miso keeps the body balanced and happy, so it's fine to have miso every day if you'd like.  I do.  Sometimes I'll even have it once with breakfast and then again that night with dinner.  The minerals in miso also help support immune function because of it's zinc content.  I'm guessing all you sickies are wishing you've been eating a whole lot of miso soup lately...go make some right now!

Varieties ~
The different types of miso include:
  • hatcho miso (made from soybeans)
  • kome miso (made from white rice and soybeans)
  • mugi miso (made from barley and soybeans)
  • soba miso (made from buckwheat and soybeans)
  • genmai miso (made from brown rice and soybeans)
  • natto miso (made from ginger and soybeans)
Since there are so many varieties of miso out there, you might be wondering...

Which type of miso should I buy?
Be careful when buying miso from an asian market.  Most contain MSG, which is just not natural (and can cause headaches, nausea, heart palpitations...need I go on?).  Miso made with barley and aged at least 2 years is considered preferable to other misos in terms of its medicinal properties.  You can usually find barley miso at health food stores, or you can buy them online here or here.  If you try barley miso and you're not wild about it, try alternating with other misos that are more mild tasting.  Personally, I love barley miso.  It warms me from the inside out on the coldest days...

How do I make miso soup?
I thought you'd never ask!

Restaurant-Style Miso Soup

Serves 2

1 scallion, thinly sliced
2" piece wakame, cut into small pieces with scissors
1/4 of a block of soft or silken tofu, diced into small cubes
2 teaspoons barley miso

Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium pot.  Reduce heat, add scallions and wakame to pot, and simmer over low heat for 6-8 minutes.  Fill a ladle with some of the soup broth, dissolve miso in it, and then add it back to the soup.  Add tofu cubes and heat on low heat for 2 more minutes.  Serve immediately.

You can easily turn this into a hearty soup by adding all kinds of things - boy choy, dandelion greens, kale, cabbage, brown onions, carrots and other root vegetables - whatever your little "asian" heart desires!


  1. I never knew there were different kinds of Miso Soup!
    What kind is closest to what you would get in a restaurant?

  2. Shiro (white) miso and aka (red) miso are the most popular, so it's very possible that these are the kinds that restaurants use. Every region of Japan prefers it's own type of miso. so I'm sure every restaurant has a different recipe. Wish I had a better answer, sorry!

  3. Hi! I finally made it to your blog! I caught this posting since I was looking over the macro book you lent me (yes, I was overwhelmed) and I thought miso is a must-have. I got the latest Whole Living mag and decided that we should start on the detox diet first and go from there. My plans to start this week went awry as I haven't gotten the week's menu and shopping list planned out yet. Soooo, I will let you know how that goes. Nice presentation and writing! You are so talented :)

  4. hey em can you find a great recipe for miso apple cobbler that is vegan? i made one that was sooooo good just organic apples, golden raisins, then the topping was red miso, oats, oat flour and a little brown sugar but it had butter. it was sooooooo good but what do you think i could use instead of butter? ps your blog is so good i love it!

  5. oh and not brown sugar either... sorry i'm a pain but it was soooo yummy

  6. I think I found the recipe...was it from bon appetit magazine? I will do my best. Most likely it will require a lot of trial and error...which will require a lot of taste testing...which will require many bites of apple cobbler. Poor me :)