What does miso taste like? – Quick glance at the soul of Japanese cuisine

Japanese cuisine, with long history and rich culture, is undoubtedly one of the most popular cuisines in the world. Though Japanese people tend to maintain the fresh flavor of food by limiting added seasoning, many traditional Japanese dishes cannot shine without Miso –  a key ingredient in Japanese cooking. So what is Miso? What is Miso made of? What does Miso taste like? These questions are probably popping up in your mind right now. Let’s discover everything you need to know about Miso in today’s blog.

What does miso taste like? – Quick glance at the soul of Japanese cuisine.

1. What Is Miso?

Miso, originally came from China, is a Japanese traditional seasoning. Basically, it is made by fermenting soybeans, rice or barley with salt and Koji. The flavor and texture of Miso will depend greatly on the fermentation time. This can range from several weeks to one year. After being produced, Miso is packed and distributed to the market. The final product can be used in a very long time if it is preserved well in the refrigerator. Traditionally, Japanese people use Miso paste to enhance the taste of soup broths. However, nowadays, people also use Miso in many Western dishes like salad, braised chicken, etc. It is no secret that Miso has become an essential part of Japanese cooking and even considered the soul of Japanese cuisine.

What does Miso taste like

It is no secret that Miso has become an essential part of Japanese cooking and even considered the soul of Japanse cuisine.

2. Varieties of Miso

There are many types of Miso available. Based on the grains that are used for fermentation, we have three kinds of Miso. They are Barley Miso, Rice Miso and Soybean Miso. However, Japanese people typically categorize Miso based on color and taste. In general, there are 3 main types of Miso which are White Miso, Red Miso and Mixed Miso.

What does Miso taste like

There are 3 main types of Miso which are White Miso, Red Miso and Mixed Miso.

  • White Miso (Shiromiso) has yellow color and soft texture. It is made by fermenting white rice in about 1 month.
What does Miso taste like

White Miso has yellow color and soft texture.

  • Red Miso (Akamiso) has dark red color and firm texture. It has a significantly longer fermentation time which ranges from 2 to 3 years in comparison with White Miso.
What does Miso taste like

Red Miso has dark color

  • Mixed Miso (Awasemiso) is basically made by mixing White Miso and Red Miso together. Therefore, it has dark brown colour. The fermentation process lasts from 1 year to 1.5 years.
What does Miso taste like

Mixed Miso has dark brown color

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3. What does Miso taste like?

Each Miso product has a different taste and texture. It is really important to know clearly the characteristic of each Miso product. You surely do not want to mess up a sophisticated Japanese dish by using an inappropriate kind of Miso!

Though Miso is not meant to be eaten alone, you still can try it raw to feel its flavor at best. At first, you may think that its taste is weird and a bit harsh. But once Miso is blended wisely into food, it can bring the original dish to a whole new level!

Basically, Miso has a salty taste and a typical tangy smell like that of any fermented product. Generally, its texture is smooth, more or less like that of a red bean paste. The flavor of Miso varies along with its color. The brighter color Miso has, the lighter and the sweeter it tastes.

What does Miso taste like

The brighter color Miso has, the lighter and the sweeter it tastes.

3.1. White Miso:

White Miso has a mild and sweet flavor. You can find a perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness in this type of Miso. Given that, it is also the most versatile Miso for home cooking. It can go well with tart, acidic flavors and slightly bitter flavors. With a gentle nature, White miso is easy to combine with a variety of ingredients so many  Western chefs love it. They often use it in mashed vegetables to add Asian flavor. Using Miso to make a thick sauce to dip vegetables is also delicious.

What does Miso taste like

3.2. Red Miso

Red Miso has the strongest flavor among all types of Miso. As in fermentation process, people put more salt which allows for longer fermentation times, Red Miso has an intensively saltiness which is very suitable for stews that have a lot of meat and vegetables. You can mix this miso in water or dashi to stew meat. It also fits well in noodles, as it produces rich flavor without the use of additional seasoning.

Besides, red miso perfectly matches with red meats such as beef, sheep. It is not recommended to use red miso with fish, regardless it is stews or hotpot. You should use beef or chicken instead. If you want to eat fish hotpot or miso stew fish, use white miso instead.

What does Miso taste like

Steak with Red Miso

3.3. Awasemiso

As Awasemiso is blended from White Miso and Red Miso, it has a medium flavor. Awasemiso has a moderate amount of salt, not too much, not too little so it is suitable to ferment other food. Many delicious Japanese pickled vegetables are fermented in miso. Two famous Japanese dishes which also use Awasemiso are fermented garlic and fermented egg yolks.

What does Miso taste like

Fermented yolk egg with Awasemiso

If you prefer stronger taste, you can use Awasemiso for Japanese dishes that normally use White miso.

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4. Where to find Miso paste

Miso is an indispensable part of Japanese food so it is extremely easy to find it. Miso is available in any convenient store or supermarket across Japan. On the plastic tubs or jar, you may find it called “miso paste” or “soybean paste.” Just remember to look at the name and ingredients printed on the cover carefully to select correctly the type of Miso that you are looking for.

Conclusion

Hopefully, after reading this blog, you have gained an insight into Miso – the door to Japanese cuisine. Now that you have the answers for the questions like “What is Miso?”, “How does Miso taste like?” and “Where to buy Miso?“, do not hesitate to make a Japanese dish using Miso for your family. And if you go to visit Japan one day, you can also consider buying Miso as gift for your families and friends. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About Haruto Suzuki

Haruto Suzuki is a senior food and drinks blogger at Question Japan. He has a background in F&B industry and also experience of running his own Japanese restaurant in Tokyo for over 10 years. Therefore, he has a great knowledge of Japanese cuisine. So if you want to discover Japan through its unique traditional cuisine, Haruto Suzuki’s blog will be a great source of information for you.