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[Trend Spotlight] Get to Know Miso

Posted by janethelm
April 14, 2014
Featured in: Trend Spotlight
[Trend Spotlight] Get to Know Miso

~ by Janet Helm, MS, RD

All of a sudden, it seems, people are mad about miso. Maybe it's the fermentation craze. Perhaps it's the current popularity of Asian cuisine.  Or maybe it's just the continual desire for new flavors.  Whatever the case, this ancient ingredient has become a hot new food trend.

Do you know miso?  Basically, miso is fermented soybean paste that's been mixed with a cultured grain -- most commonly barley, rice or rye. Known as koji, this cultured grain is made by adding a type of fungus or mold. Then the mixture is allowed to ferment for a couple of months or up to three years. Miso looks a bit like peanut butter in texture and the color varies from white to dark brown, based on length of fermentation and combination of other ingredients. The more soybeans that are used in the miso and the longer the fermentation time the darker and stronger the flavor.  The white and pale yellow miso varieties are lower in soybeans and have a shorter fermentation time, so the taste is milder and sweeter. The darker versions that are reddish brown in color have been fermented longer and are more pungent and robust.  

The lighter miso is best for more delicate recipes, such as sauces, salad dressings or soups, while the darker varieties are used in heavier dishes.  Pictured above is Sweet Miso Broccoli Salad by Clean Wellness that was featured on Healthy Aperture.  Some of the other creative miso dishes from Healthy Aperture bloggers include Miso Kimchi Deviled Eggs  Cole Slaw with Miso Dressing  Kale-Miso Saute with Dates and Millet  Linguine with Miso Butter  Miso Cumin White Bean Hummus.  

Miso originated in China in ancient times, and then spread to Japan.  You may know miso from the classic miso soup on Japanese menus.  This ancient ingredient was fueled by the macrobiotic movement in the U.S., and today many people claim that miso has abilities to detox and cleanse.  Others like it because it's a "living food," similar to yogurt and other fermented foods.  I like it because of the taste. I don't expect it to work miracles.  Miso has a rich, complex flavor that adds a hit of umami to everything it touches -- vegetables, salads, soups, sauces, meats and seafood.  Take a look at these amazing miso-infused creations from Healthy Aperture bloggers:

Baby Bok Choy with Warm Miso Ginger Dressing

[Trend Spotlight] Get to Know Miso

For the Baby Bok Choy with Warm Miso Ginger Dressing recipe, visit Best Cleanse Recipes

Miso Glazed Brussels Sprouts

[Trend Spotlight] Get to Know Miso

For the Miso Glazed Brussels Sprouts recipe, visit In Fine Balance

Kobacha, Spinach, Brown Rice and Miso Broth

[Trend Spotlight] Get to Know Miso

For the Kobocha, Spinach, Brown Rice and Miso Broth recipe, visit Coconut and Berries

Butternut Squash Soup with Miso and Coconut

[Trend Spotlight] Get to Know Miso

For the Butternut Squash Soup with Miso and Coconut recipe, visit Food Fitness Fresh Air

Peanut Butter and Miso Glazed Salmon

[Trend Spotlight] Get to Know Miso

For the Peanut Butter and Miso Glazed Salmon recipe, visit iFoodReal  

If miso is new to you, look for it in your supermarket -- it's increasingly available in Asian sections.  You can also find miso in Asian markets and natural foods stores.  Be sure to buy the paste and not the powdered stuff. You'll need to keep it in the refrigerator and make sure it doesn't dry out.  You'll be surprised at the opportunites for adding miso to your meals, along with other Asian staples that I love to keep on hand:  rice vinegar, sesame oil, fresh ginger, mirin, soy sauce and hoisin sauce. 

How do you do miso?


Janet Helm is the author of the FOOD TRENDS Feature on HealthyAperture and is a registered dietitian who wears multiple hats – as a public relations executive, blogger and nutrition journalist. Currently, she is the Chief Food and Nutrition Strategist in North America for Weber Shandwick, a global public relations firm. Janet is also the co-founder of Healthy Aperture, founder of Nutrition Blog Network and author of The Food Lover’s Healthy Habits Cookbook. She blogs at Nutrition Unplugged and for WedMD and is a former media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She received a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and nutrition, and a master’s degree in dietetics from Kansas State University. Janet lives in Chicago with her husband and 10-year-old twins.
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