Miso is a paste of fermented soybeans, which doesn’t sound delicious but is. It comes in various hues from white to dark brown and the general rule of thumb is that the darker the miso, the stronger the flavour.
The claimed health benefits of consuming miso are many and varied. They include protection from radiation sickness but we hope never to be in a position to test this. Miso is certainly rich in natural enzymes from the fermentation process, and is high in protein. It is also high in salt, however. Perhaps its most alluring health benefit is that it provides a rich umami flavour, giving a full-bodied, meaty kick, which makes it easy to cut down on the actual meat in your diet.
We buy our miso paste from Urban Hippie in Nelson but you can find miso in the international foods sections of many supermarkets, at Davis Trading, Steve's Wholefoods, and at Organic Living Healthfoods in Terrace End.
Try these five simple methods to add more miso to your diet:
1. Toast – do as we do in the café and spread miso and tahini on your sourdough toast. If you don't like tahini, add avocado, peanut butter or hummus instead. Mixing a spoonful of miso into a tub of hummus is a good idea.
2. Mayonnaise – improve any store-bought mayonnaise by mixing it with miso paste in equal parts. It will make any sandwich or wrap more delicious. If, like our child, you enjoy mayonnaise with your sushi, this will enhance the experience no end.
3. Soup – a spoonful of miso enhances vegetable soups, adding the sort of salty richness that usually suggests the presence of a ham bone. There are plenty of recipes online but we recommend this quick and easy carrot soup recipe from the fabulous Smitten Kitchen: https://smittenkitchen.com/2012/01/carrot-soup-with-miso-and-sesame/
4. Ramen – throw away those dubious flavouring sachets and add a spoonful of miso paste or a sachet of instant miso soup instead (but don’t let it boil). Throw in a handful of spinach, some sliced spring onions, and a spoon of chilli oil if you want to fancy up your ramen.
5. Salad dressing – mix 4 tbsp of miso paste with 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari, 2 tbsp rice or cider vinegar, 2 tbsp sesame oil and 1 tsp finely grated ginger root. Shake it all up and thin with a little water. This will jazz up a leaf or root vegetable salad and keeps in your fridge for days. If your soy sauce is very salty, as many are, reduce the amount by half. You can always add more.
There are a bajillion more miso recipes on the internet so give some of them a try.