109 - Miso Makes Super Soup

By Mary Luz Mejia

Published: July 26, 2006 

You've likely had a bowl or two of miso soup in your day, but have you ever given any thought as to how this historic Japanese staple is made?

MisoA mainstay for hundreds of years, the versatile miso starts off by mixing cooked soybeans, salt, grains (usually barley or rice), and a fermenting agent known as koji. The process and even the basic ingredients can vary depending on the type of miso, which are classified using several criteria.

There are white, red, yellow and brown miso pastes, they're sweet or salty -- and the variety is also contingent on the type of grain used. To find some of the most authentic assortment in the city, you need look no further than Sanko or Little Tokyo. Both of these Japanese shops offer a fridge full of miso tubs of every colour and knowledgeable staff to help make your selection.

This assistance may come in handy to guide you through the rainbow of flavours. Darker miso, or the red and brown kinds, are the saltiest whereas white miso is sweeter in flavour. Yellow miso is often made with rice as its grain of choice and tends to be slightly less salty than the darkest varieties.

Miso paste is used in the preparation of Japan's favourite breakfast, miso soup. The paste is added to dashi or a fish-based broth along with tofu and vegetables.

If the traditional breakfast dish doesn't do it for you, consider that you can use miso instead of salt in your favourite stew or soup, and some people even blend it with butter for an exotic corn on the cob. Whichever way you prefer to eat it, miso is an excellent source of iron, zinc, magnesium and it's said that although it's high in sodium, it can actually help decrease sodium intake.

Perhaps that's because a little goes a long, long way.

Sanko Trading Co.
730 Queen St. W.
Toronto, Ontario

Little Tokyo
199 Augusta St.
Toronto, Ontario


photo credit: Mary Luz Mejia