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Miso is a thick paste made by combining soybeans and barley or wheat or rice (or a mixture of these grains) with a yeast mold (koji) that has been cultivated from a soybean, barley or rice base. The mixture is then aged from three months to three years. Consider the potential number of combinations this set of variables provides, and you’ll get a sense of the wide range of colors, tastes and textures available out there in miso-land. Miso is very nutritious and is a basic element of many Japanese soups, stews, and braised dishes.
Here are some miso choices:
- Aka miso — also known as sendai-miso, inaka-miso and red miso — is a rich paste with a strong, salty flavor. Made from barley, it is used for soup, stews, and braised dishes.
- Hatcho miso is a very pungent, salty variation, with a thick, grainy texture and a dark, murky color. It is made from soybeans only, and is used in small amounts to add richness to soups and broths.
- Shinshu miso is a golden-yellow, all-purpose version of this paste. It has a mellow flavor and a rather high salt content.