The Benefits Of Miso Paste
The Benefits Of Miso Paste
Unless you grew up with the stuff, miso paste is probably a foreign concept in your kitchen. Sure, you’ve had miso-glazed salmon at that trendy restaurant whose name you can’t remember. And miso soup is practically a staple every time you head out for all-you-can-eat sushi (if you don’t overindulge in spicy salmon rolls first, of course).
But if those are your only experiences with the Asian food staple then you really are missing out on a whole world of flavours and benefits.
What Exactly Is Miso Paste?
Miso is essentially fermented soybean paste. The beans are fermented with salt and a fungus known as koji, along with rice or barley. Then the mixture sits and ages anywhere from six to 36 months. The result is a thick, salty paste that’s just a little more spreadable than peanut butter. Because there’s room for improvising during the fermenting and aging process, the paste itself comes in a variety of colours—from red to brown to black.
There are a few common varieties available in Canada: hatcho (soy only), genmai (soy and brown rice), kome (soy and white rice), mugi (soy and barley), natto (soy and ginger) and soba (soy and buckwheat).
So How Is It Used?
Sparingly, because it can be pretty salty; one teaspoon contains anywhere from 200-300 milligrams of sodium, so a little goes a long way. Depending on what you’re cooking, you can whisk a teaspoon or two with some broth before adding to a larger pot of broth, soup or sauce. It really is a great way to add another layer of flavour to a dish. If you’re looking to recreate that aforementioned salmon, you could certainly spread a little bit on top of the fish before baking it. Same goes for chicken or any other meat that you’re looking to experiment with. Basically the sky’s the limit—we’ve even seen it used in pasta dishes.
With So Much Salt, How Can It Be Good For You?
Recent studies have shown that when compared with regular table salt, miso doesn’t affect our cardiovascular systems in the same negative way. So while it’s still best to minimize how much of it we eat, perhaps it’s a better alternative than straight up salt when it comes to seasoning our dishes. Plus, miso contains antioxidants and nutrients like vitamin B2, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, iron and potassium.
Need another health reason to try it out? Miso also helps to increase the good gut bacteria in our bodies, which works to aid digestion and strengthen the immune system.
Does That Mean It Tastes Salty Too?
Yes and no. It’s salty, but it also speaks to that elusive fifth taste in Asian cooking known as “umami.” As such, it’s also been described as sweet, earthy, savory and sometimes sweet. It all depends on the variety you buy and how you use it.
Where Do You Buy It?
For a long time miso paste used to only be available at Asian grocers. Today, you can find it at many grocery stores across Canada. It comes in tubes, tubs and even wrapped in plastic. Once you open it, be sure to cover it tightly and place in the fridge. It should last you a while, but eventually a small amount of white mould will begin to grow on the edges. Once that happens you should be fine to scrape that off and keep the remaining paste for a week or so longer.
Got Some. So What Should I Cook?
If you aren’t looking to venture too far from your normal repertoire of recipes, perhaps you’d do well to start with this easy Asparagus with Miso Lemon Dressing—especially since asparagus are in season right now. These Miso Roasted Chickpeas are also pretty darned good, as is this recipe for Miso Maple Tofu.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out some of these Pinterest-worthy recipes now.